Conceptua Founders Reimagine the Networking Event

Matt Meyer and Matthew Knight, founders of Conceptua

If you’ve been to one networking event, you’ve been to them all, right? Well, meet Matt Meyer and Matthew Knight, founders of Conceptua. “The Matts” are on a mission to redefine the experience of networking, and at the core of their events lies a new and refreshing approach: Proactively connect the right people, and help them create and build social capital to uncover new opportunities.

Called “Social Events for the Cosmopolitan Professional,” Conceptua has quickly gotten on the radar of some of San Francisco’s most interesting young professionals and entrepreneurs. June 28th will mark their fifth event, and you can certainly expect to see Conceptua in other major cities in the near future. Here’s the inside scoop from the founders themselves:

What inspired you to create Conceptua?
We’re entrepreneurs at heart and we’re social. We manage different circles of friends and love meeting new people. And we learned, early on, how valuable connections are. We wanted a way to turn these interests into a business, and similar to the start of most businesses, a void in the event market was identified. We started hatching a plan and developing ideas to fill it, and now, here we are.

What problems do you see with normal networking events?
Usually networking events follow a specific format: show up at bar, wear name tag, and muster up enough moxie to try to make eye-contact to get some actual networking done. There may or may not be some sort of speech made by the events’ organizers or others, but that’s what a typical networking event looks like. Additionally, a lot of these events are marketed towards a specific industry group: CPAs, attorneys, real estate professionals, and tech start ups are a few that come to mind. But we think that there is a lot of intrinsic value in connecting people from different backgrounds… we’re here to shake it up a bit and disrupt the normal networking process.

By attending other networking events, and throwing events yourselves, what are some principles you’ve learned about connecting people? 
It seems like organizers needed to be more hands-on with the direction of their events, because even though people genuinely want to meet and connect with others, it’s no easy task. Fear of rejection and lack of a credible “connecting” purpose of an event, serve as distractors. This is why we put strong emphasis on building social capital (your network) and using that social network to identify opportunities. This core principle is the driver for the design, look, and feel of our events. We strive to make the process of meeting and connecting people, for networking purposes, as easy as possible.

What can people expect from a Conceptua event? Who should attend?
Conceptua wants to make connecting easy for everyone from any industry, so we created a two-piece strategy to make it really simple. First, we create an environment that promotes comfort and social relaxation; it’s a lot easier to socialize when you’re comfortable. Our weapons of choice are an open bar, complimentary appetizers to keep those bellies satiated, raffles for Apple and other products donated by sponsors (who doesn’t like free stuff like iPods?), a dope DJ, and a visually pretty venue that other events don’t typically use.

Second, we’ve created two segments to ensure everyone is actually making connections with each other: the Organic Microphone Connection (OMC) and the Organic Interaction Connection (OIC). Our OMC segment features speakers who are founders or reps of new and up-and-coming companies, from an array of industries. The speakers quickly and candidly present their companies’ project, product, hiring opportunities, etc., to the audience. Interaction following this segment skyrockets for everyone, especially the speakers.

The OIC starts as soon as an attendee enters the event, and it’s a game of ‘who can connect with the most people tonight?’ There are very tangible gifts presented to the most active attendees. For example, we have given out SF Giants’ tickets to our past winners. The OIC also has “Connectors” helping our attendees with ice-breaking and introductions. Our Connectors are great at keeping an eye out for and proactively interacting with attendees who are keeping to themselves.

All types of professionals and entrepreneurs, from every, industry will benefit from our events. We’re designed to host these broad swaths of networkers, get them into one space, and then watch synergy ensue. Accountants, designers, and everyone else have some common ground between them. And we want them to find it.

What is your take on a trend we are seeing at Mingly: the blurring lines between personal and professional worlds?
Matthew Knight: “For me there’s not a huge blur between the two. Years as an accounting professional in a strict personal brand setting has allowed me to appreciate my presence, and I think that some transparency of my personal life is healthy for both my personal and professional brand.”

Matt Meyer: “While there are some aspects of my personal life that I keep separate from my professional, the lines inevitably blur. But in connecting terms, I think that knowing someone on both levels can be far more adventagous than just knowing someone through professional lines of communication only.”

The Mingly team is proud to be one of the featured OMC speakers on June 28th. If you’re in San Francisco, we hope to see you there for what’s sure to be a productive and fun night!