How to Build Collaborative Relationships with a Startup

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By Mika Herrera (Founder, Apparel Dream) Two months ago, I came to the Silicon Valley without knowing anyone and eager to start my 99designs project for fashion called Apparel Dream. Right from the start, I believed that one of the most important things was to start building relationships with entrepreneurs in Silicon Valley.

Shortly after moving to Silicon Valley, I received an invitation to collaborate with Welcu's team for a few months in return for experience and feedback. Through Welcu, I met many other interesting entrepreneurs.

I learned a lot of new things with the team, like networking techniques, stock and options stuff, UX prototyping and so on.

Of course, I also gained a lot of valuable advice, support and motivation. Welcu is a corporate event management firm for high-end events, part of the 500Startups portfolio, leading the most important technology conference in Latin America, called Webprendedor.

While working with Welcu's team in 500 Startups, I met Sarah Paiji, the CEO of Snapette. Although, I didn't have a powerful network in Silicon Valley, I still offered to help her with PR in Latin America, helping to appear in some sites and fashion magazines. Since Snapette is a fashion application, I received a lot of feedback and great ideas from the founders.

It is very valuable to have people with which one feels comfortable to ask for an honest opinion or to be able to discuss dark intentions regarding the market, partners, sales and investors, among others.

If you want to help other entrepreneurs, be aware of both your time and commitment. I usually say "I can dedicate five hours a week on your project, does that work for you?" If the answer is yes, be prepared to dedicate time and commit to work as you would if you were getting paid.

Tips for finding a company with which to collaborate:

  1. Approach the incubators. There are always entrepreneurs who need that extra talent or skill that you may be able to offer. Find out which companies are now being incubated in incubators near to you: Contact the founders through Angel.co, LinkedIn, etc.
  2. Check out events like Women 2.0 Founder Fridays, Hackers and Founders, or subscribe in Startup Digest, etc.
  3. Look in discussion forums/groups where subject-matter experts talk about various topics that may interest other entrepreneurs (finance, marketing, sales, programming, etc).
  4. Like Steve Blank says "Get out of the office" and take a coffe, lunch or anything with them.

Editor's note: Got a question for our guest blogger? Leave a message in the comments below. About the guest blogger: Mika Herrera is the founder and CEO of Apparel Dream, a "99designs for fashion" with a vision to help independent fashion designers in countries where they barely can make a living doing what they love and connect them to people around the world looking for beautiful garments.