Last Thursday was a marathon networking day for me. I started out at the Herzelia Open Coffee Club , arranged by Tilly Kalisky of Greylock Partners. Later that afternoon I had coffee with some colleagues, and topped off the evening with the Digital Eve Israel speed networking event.
My main observation is , over the past few years, Israelis have come an extremely long way when it comes to networking. The country used to be much more dominated by closed networks, where being in something called "shmoneh matayim" made all the difference. (Sorry, even if I knew what it meant, I couldn't tell you.)
No longer. From the events I attended, it is overwhelmingly clear that getting into the club is no longer as hard as it once was, and the club members are openly and happily going out to networking events to meet the rest of the world.
Just a couple years ago, I used to get slightly off-kilter looks when I introduced myself to a stranger at a professional event. Now I get a firm handshake. Some people are still slightly shy about it, but no more shy than anywhere else in the world.
I wonder to myself how much social networking tools have contributed to this. LinkedIn and Plaxo have been popular here for several years, and that certainly started to get people to loosen up about collecting contacts. However, I think things really clicked into place with Facebook, when we all learned that it's easy to make new friends with people you don't know.
Whatever it was, professional networking has taken a big step up, to the benefit of all.