23. December 2014 · Comments Off on What Makes A Partnership Important? · Categories: Partnerships, Startups

When we talk about partnerships, more often than not what we are really taking about are distribution partners – channel partners extend the sales reach of your organization.  Getting channel partnerships right is particularly important for early stage companies who have fewer resources and less ability to absorb the cost and time associated with partnerships that don’t work out.

Know Your Product – Before entering into a channel partnership make sure you have an in-depth understanding of each component of your product and an inventory of all dependencies on outside parties – hardware, software, peripherals, connectivity, core services and complimentary services are common components when it comes to early stage tech companies. It is easy to overlook everyday external operational dependencies

Complexity – Once the inventory of external dependencies of your product is identified, each existing or potential partnership should be considered in terms of both market complexity and product complexity.  The higher the distribution partner ranks in both of these categories, the more time and resources your company will have to put into the partnership – be realistic and make sure you’re up for it as a company.

Set Realistic Expectations – If you are convinced you can manage the partnership, you need to understand what your company is going to get out of it, both in terms of revenue and the further development of your product’s core competency  Think of it as follows:

  • Low Revenue / Low Product  Development – Limited Partnership = Avoid
  • Low Revenue / High Product Development – Learning Partnership = Caution
  • High Revenue / Low Product Development – Earning Partnership = Pursue
  • High Revenue / High Product Development – Strategic Partnership = Aggressively Pursue

Obviously strategic partnerships should be your main focus – these are the ones that will keep the lights on and while also getting your closer to your end goal.

The Partner Perspective – So you have allocated your company’s resources accordingly and are on the verge of signing a deal with the strategic partner who will take you to the next big iteration of success?  Great – but before you get too excited, pause to analyse the partnership from the partner’s perspective too.  Is your product key to their go-to-market strategy?

If you find there is high value to both your company and the partner – then you have a strategic synergy and the best case scenario at hand.  If it is strategically important to the partner, but less so to your company, you may still have a good revenue opportunity and a partnership worth pursuing. Conversely, if the strategic importance is low for both companies, you likely have a mismatch in front of you and a partnership that you are likely better off without.

Where most early stage companies run into trouble is with partnerships that have a high alignment to their own company’s product strategy, but low value to your perspective partner’s strategy.  In this situation you are likely to get orphaned should the deal get signed.  An orphan partnership is a vacuum that must be avoided at all costs, but aspirations and human nature can cloud judgement and make it difficult to see the the potential for an orphan partnership before resources have been expended.  A knowledgeable advisory board and good mentors are great resources to consult for an objective take on the partners perspective.

Following the steps outlined above will allow you to prioritize partnerships and allocate resources appropriately.  It will set up your company up to implement a best practices in partner management – which will be discussed in the final blog entry of this partner program series.


This is part 2 on developing a winning partnership strategy for your company. You can read part 1 here.

29. July 2014 · Comments Off on Will You Make the Top 40 Over 40? · Categories: Leadership, Startups

The belief that startups are a young person’s game is completely erroneous. Digital natives, born and raised in the world of social, mobile and Internet, may have had a first mover advantage in launching some of today’s high-profile tech startups, but that means little absent the ageless ability to think in the abstract, challenge accepted norms and persevere through the creative process..

The question thus becomes, how do we create and how has this contributed to the misconception that you have to be young to launch a startup? 6a00d83452989a69e200e5503cec7e8833-800wi

The most influential article I have read on the subject was Malcolm Gladwell’s 2008 piece in the New Yorker, “Late Bloomers“. Once I got past his rather loquacious back story of Picasso and Cézanne (and forgave him for following up Outliers with Blink), his insightful hypothesis became clear, society easily recognizes individuals who possess a creative vision (think Jobs, Zuckerberg, Mozart or Picasso). We label these individuals prodigies and we try to emulate them – even though we do not (and cannot) create in the same way they do. The vast majority of us, are more like Cézanne – we create through an experimental process which can span years or even decades. The challenge is that, before success is achieved, the work of the experimental creative, or late bloomer, cannot be distinguished from the average and, therefore, potential goes unrecognized..

Before sympathy for the late bloomer overwhelms you, check out my SlideShare presentation at the end of this post which highlights ten disruptors, media tycoons and titans of tech that found success well into their 30’s and 40’s.

A hypothesis and anecdotal evidence is one thing, quantifiable data is another.  “Is There A Peak Age for Entrepreneurship?“, a 2011 TechCrunch article by Adeo Ressi (founder of the Founder Institute) is the best piece I have read on the issue of age correlating to startup success. In order to identify the traits of successful entrepreneurs, the Founder Institute conducted over 3,000 personality and aptitude tests on applicants worldwide, and then carefully tracked the progress of almost 1,000 enrolled founders and 350 graduates..

The result? Older age has shown in the data to correlate with more successful entrepreneurs up to the age of 40, after which it has limited or no impact. Ressi concluded in full:

Age is only one factor among many to predict the success of entrepreneurs, and anybody at any age can break any molds put forward by “experts.” However, it’s clear that the stories of a few “college-dropout turned millionaire” (or billionaire) startup founders have clouded both the mass media and the tech industry from reality. We have romanticized the idea of a young founder because, well, it’s a great story, but these stories are not the norm. In the end, classic biases of gender, race, and age need to be discarded for a real science of success.

The lesson to be learned?  If you create through trial and error, as most of us do, you’re just hitting your stride by 40 so go conquer the world!

[slideshare id=37446540&doc=latebloomers-140728235659-phpapp01]