Human Uber? No thanks!

Would you try a “Human Uber”?

Can technology replace the human touch in networking? That was something I wondered about recently when I read about the “Human Uber”. Sounds odd and it really is! The “Human Uber” is a person who will stand in for you at an event but with the means to project your face via an iPad etc…. So, you can attend events without actually having to attend! It’s basically networking without leaving the comfort of your home or office. Everyone I talk to about building business connections says that people buy from people. And I agree. Yes, we buy goods online and people start relationships online – but in the end, if the relationship is to progress, they need to meet face to face. And, also, what does it say to the person you are being “Uber-introduced” to about your actual interest in getting to know them?  Yet to a certain extent – this happens at networking: many attendees at BNI meetings will deputise for a fellow member. It’s also true that at Catena we are always on the look-out for relevant introductions for member businesses, but can anything really take the place of engaging with a person?  That’s why we facilitate introductions – to allow both parties to meet up when convenient. Because people do business with people. We describe Catena as a business matchmaking service and really good business relationships are based on good chemistry. How can you find that connection when you’re not even physically in the same room as a potential contact? That’s why I think that the Human Uber will only ever be a novelty.

Keeping it personal

However big a business network becomes, great business is based on human connections. That’s something I am very aware at the moment with the launch of our pilot Catena franchise! I am very proud and grateful to those people who put so much work in to make it happen. And that’s the crucial word: people. When you think of business networks, you tend to think of a group rather than individuals. Yet without those individuals, a network doesn’t mean much. The Manchester franchise is all about taking our more personal approach to business networking to a whole new area!  The development of the franchise was very much down to the support of individuals, including Richard Lloyd from CMC Partners, Adrian Peck of Ahead in Speaking, Mark Wildsmith of Wildsmith Photography. Not forgetting Vikie who has been assisting with the procedures surrounding administration and accounts, Selina Moestl, who researched and devised the model, as a postgraduate placement opportunity and as a result, Paul Rice of the University of Nottingham, who made me aware of the Placements programme. I am also delighted that the person at the helm of the Manchester franchise has been involved with Catena from its early days and is one of the founding members from our Crowdfunding campaign four years ago; Caroline Jackson, whose name you may recognise from Little Women, Global iLabs and other businesses that she is associated with. I would be very grateful if you could introduce me to any colleagues/other personnel (if you have offices in the vicinity), so that we can invite them to forthcoming events in the region and connect them with Caroline.

People power

While we continue to grow the Catena network, the focus is still most definitely on people. That’s why we work really hard to try and get people together and to spark conversations. The launch of the pilot franchise won’t take away from our main network and members. Quite the opposite. I’m excited to work with Caroline to grow the Catena network and introduce new businesses from other regions into the network and facilitate subsequent introductions to members. However successful a business network becomes, you can never ignore the human aspects of building sustainable business relationships. As I hope has been clear over the years, we haven’t been developing Catena purely for conventional business reasons. A great deal of our approach in connecting with local organisations goes well beyond a traditional business remit. And I know this more “human” approach has paid off in terms of the support and goodwill we have benefited from, both generally and throughout the franchise process. That’s why I think that options like networking via a screen over another person’s face will only ever be novelties. Despite the many forms of technology and social media now available, nothing can really replace the chemistry behind lasting business connections. Because people want to connect with people. Good business is personal and a network is only as good as the individuals and the relationships within it.


Claire Bicknell, Catena