Voray CEO David Olk takes the 'bland' out of networking events

David Olk is changing the way networking events are held. (Image: Voray)

Networking events are a staple of doing business and David Olk, CEO of Voray, is out to change their often-bland format.

Current network functions are “inefficient, ineffective, stale and repetitive,” Olk told FierceCEO. “When you’re a CEO you’re always being invited to a lot of stuff.”

What Olk wanted to do was “create networking events people wanted to go to. A small dinner with people you want to break bread with.”

One big difference between Voray’s events and traditional ones is their size.

A traditional networking event can be 100 people, standing around, making small talk, but not really connecting. “You’re usually invited because the host wants to sell you something,” Olk said.

What Voray does is “curate” very small gatherings of professionals for dinner, in the range of 15 to 18 people, “that want to attend because it’s very different than any other networking function,” Olk said.

As a result, the event is like a private gathering, not a cocktail party. And guests leave with “more professional growth and new friends in the spaces they operate in,” Olk said. “Voray partners use the platform as a sales acceleration tool by making it easier to build relationships with prospects.”

Using its software, Voray sets up the event by identifying the people who will be invited.

Voray began as an experiment by Olk, who invited 18 friends to his home as a relationship-building exercise and, he said, “We expanded on that.”

The company began operating in January 2016 and is currently hosting events in four cities: New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Boston. Voray will begin its networking events in Chicago next month.

From there, Olk envisions being in all major U.S. cities in the next 18 months.

“The vision is to create the largest professional network in the world,” Olk said. “It will be built around people meeting in person, not in ways like LinkedIn, through social networks,” Olk said. “It will replace social networks simply by putting people together.”

Voray is funded by its founders, including Olk, who is also a cofounder of point-of-sale system ShopKeep and was on the board of crowd-sourced funding platform Kickstarter.

ShopKeep is a SaaS technology company that, under Olk, grew to one of New York City’s largest software companies, with over 25,000 enterprise customers and raising over $100 million in capital.

“I feel like it’s very easy for anyone to become an executive at a large company,” Olk said. “But it’s harder to build things. ... (I've) always wanted to build things that would help people.”

Fast Five with David Olk

What's the single most important trait for a leader?

An ability to take all of the emotion out of the room and be pragmatic.

What's the key to finding new opportunities for revenue?

The best way is to conduct a lot of customer discovery.

When have you had to adapt and what did you learn?

Always focus and not be distracted.

On a scale of 1 to 10 (1 lowest and 10 highest) how much of a priority do you place on the following things at your company: people, process and technology?

  • People—10
  • Technology—9
  • Process—8.9

What do you wish you had known 5 years ago that you know now?

The role of a CEO is to hire, inspire, retain and never run out of capital.