Be An Early Customer.

Clark Parsons, 14.04.2016

You like to have the latest apps on your phone. Check.
You like to see programs to foster more startups. Check.
You like to have your company buy goods & services from startups.
Uh, we’ll get back to you on that one.

Everywhere you turn, people are talking about the need to support startups by getting them funded. But startups don’t just need capital. In fact, once they have capital, they need something even more precious: customers. The main metric that matters for founders and their funders is growth in the number of users or revenue, or both. And in either case, that means someone has to be willing to take a chance on a new product or service.

That fact was pointed out on a panel I heard last week at a great French-German digital economy workshop in Paris. Stuart Lodge, the EVP for Global Sales & Partners for SigFox, called attention to the adoption gap between markets like the US and other European markets. Especially for B2B products or services that are not as simple as installing an app, it can be terribly difficult to get a large or medium-sized company to even listen to a sales pitch.

Think about it: Startup founders see a market inefficiency or need, and they dedicate themselves to developing a solution that will save significant money or offer more convenience, value or efficiency. They usually have to prove the customers’ ROI to investors before they can even get funded. So they are selling something that is in many cases intrinsically valuable and beneficial. A win-win. Then they pick up the phone or send an email offering their solution.

What do they hear back? Crickets, in many cases.

It does not have to be this way. In some industries, such as advertising, where the disruption is currently so great that Chief Marketing Officers will try anything new to improve sales, you’ll find platforms for connecting established companies to the newest, latest, hottest, most experimental new tech solutions. Adweek is great at this, and there are major players across many sectors (think Unilever’s Foundry) that are working hard to be more open to finding new, potentially business-improving ideas.

But there is much more that can be done. And it can start with each one us. Next time you hear or read about a new product or solution, spend 5 minutes online seeing if you can either begin a trial usage, or let the sales team know you might be open to a pitch. Besides doing something great for the startup community, you might be one of the first to start profiting from a great new service.

I’m old enough to remember the first time someone turned me on to Google, in late 1998. So I can recall how it feels to evangelize an unknown product to everyone in my company, and then watch it become an industry standard years later. It’s like that feeling of having your favorite underground band get famous.

Have you tested or considered a new product or service this month? That’s a question we at the IE.F always want to be able to answer with yes.