As part of my effort to get a handle on who are the partners we have and where they fall in terms of industry segments, I sat down and made a list of all manufacturers I could think of off the top of my head.  I got to 97 when I had to stop, had a meeting to go to, and I hadn’t even covered the backup solution vendors, big data, or HPC.

What does it mean that I can list that many vendors without even using web search engine?  It means that our industry is very fractured both in terms of real or perceived need and in the number of solutions that are available.    Is this a good thing?  From an innovation perspective it is exciting to see so many advances in technology that can make us more productive and better connected.  Of course the reality is that the market can’t sustain all these solution providers and over time some of them will close doors or have their IP acquired for some other use case.  Based on this premise that some will fail, what can startups do to improve their chances of being the winner in the end game.

I can’t stress this enough but there are three things that are critical to success:

  1. You need to know what you are building and what REAL problem it is going to solve.  The problem statement has to be put in the context of what is most important to the client, which typically includes:  cost reduction, increase in performance/productivity, simplicity of management, and scalability.  Customers don’t buy specific features, only the outcome of those features as they relate to the problem statement above.
  2. Nothing is perfect and never will be so don’t wait to go to market earlier than later.  If the core product is ready, then start putting it in the field.  Not all customers need all features, remember the adoption curve?  There are early adopters and you want to engage them early.  Waiting to have the full set of features may take away the advantage of timing.  When launching a new product or new technology there is always some time required to educate the market so starting that conversation sooner is better.  Don’t be afraid, it might be more useful for the long term than keeping silent.
  3. People make up an organization and with the right people, an organization may thrive; with not so right people….well…..A strong management team, a good sales team, the right incentive program for the channel, a well worded marketing message can make a huge difference in the success or failure of a young company.  Decisions need to be made in a timely manner and no, there is no such a thing as perfect information to make perfect decisions.  You have to take in as much as you can and go for it.

Do you remember that story about VHS versus Beta?  Well, that is an excellent lesson.  Best doesn’t always win.