As a startup or scale-up, you want to conquer a market or at least a big piece of it. And if it’s not a totally new market, you will compete with other companies already servicing it. Having seen hundreds of pitches, allow me to give you some advice. Asked about motivation, some startup founders answer they want to disrupt a big player or even put an entire industry out of business. That may seem rebellious and cool, but in truth it’s a complete waste of energy and it shouldn’t be your motivation to start a business.
First of all, why should you even care? You’re better than the big ones, right? The up-and-coming loudly claim that big companies are tankers, rigid and inefficient, who have lost contact with customers a zillion years ago. That could be true for some. It could also be total nonsense for others. Bottom line: it’s not your problem. It can’t be your goal to disrupt. Your goal is to scale and make money. And guess what: if you play it right, big companies could help you do just that. Introducing ‘Da way of Da Friendly Virus’. (If you hear kung fu sounds in your head right now, we’re on the same track.)
All kinds of futurists, visionaries and other fortune tellers have done a great job over the past few years, painting bleak images of disrupted markets and old economies in fast decline. Many corporate companies are scared shitless of “Da Future”. Innovation tracks pop up everywhere, innovation managers are hired or promoted (or demoted, depending on how you look at it), and millions of dollars are being made by consultants all over again, rerouting the paths to long term planning and far-away future goals. Every company worth a dime is spending hands full of cash on so-called innovation tracks to be prepared for a future that’s already here. Needless to say any innovations sprouting from those tracks are hardly ever groundbreaking or game-changing, least of all disruptive.
So knock, knock, who’s there? You are. Like any other virus, a Friendly Virus needs a host. Put more plainly: if you find a way to make corporates become reference customers or business partners, not only will you create added value for them, it will exponentially raise the worth of your own company as well. Talking to investors becomes quite a bit easier when SpaceX buys some crucial parts of its Falcon engine from your company, right? If you create enough added value to hang on to that ginormous host and tickle them exactly where it makes them feel funny, I’ve just given you an exit scenario as well. You’re welcome.
At Start it @kbc, we connect corporates with startups and vice versa. We’ve seen beautiful partnerships come out of it. We’ve seen failures too. There’s some work to be done on both sides: corporates should know how to buy from startups and startups need to know how to sell to corporates. Neither one is easy.
Finally: some startups are afraid to pitch to corporates because they could inspire the latter to hack their idea and build the business themselves. Remember: it’s not about the idea. They’ve probably had it already. It’s about execution. You’re just better, faster and more creative, plus you are in direct contact with (their) customers. Or at least you should be. So if you’re smart and you show them that building a partnership with you is much easier, cheaper and faster than for them to try and copy you without having or being YOU, you could be in for a helluva ride.
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