Connections Lead to Customers

With the right customers, entrepreneurs will be more successful in executing on their business model, regardless of the product or industry, and they will enter into discussions with investment firms in a much more advantageous position.

Nothing Happens Until Something Is Sold

When I first got hired at IBM, then CEO John Akers would always say, “Nothing happens until something is sold.” I’ve never forgotten that mindset. It is so simple and yet so powerful.

I’m surprised sometimes at just how many entrepreneurs, whose business models depend on B2B success, approach sales as something slightly distasteful—a hot potato to be delegated just as soon as the startup can possibly afford to hire a VP of sales.

The founder’s mindset should be just the opposite.

Talking directly to customers (yours or someone else’s) is the only way to learn if your solution has a chance at marketplace success—and if it does, how it needs to be changed or improved to better satisfy potential customer needs.

Customer Relationships Can Be the Most Rewarding Part of Starting a Company

Another thing I learned at IBM is that the best clients are always the ones that we have real relationships with. They are the people you can talk to about their budgets, their major business objectives for the year, and their personal goals.

Because you have a familiarity with them, and they with you, you learn to trust each other.

Most wise business people aspire to build relationships with their customers. But how to accomplish that isn’t always easy or obvious—especially when you’re the entrepreneur and the potential customer that you strive to connect with is at a Fortune 1000 company.

In today’s world, from social media to interfacing with web applications, it can be more of a challenge than ever for early stage companies to engage with their target markets—particularly when it comes to reaching the right decision-maker to talk about how a new solution can solve his or her business need.

That’s the pivot point for Rev1’s acceleration model. We put market ahead of prototype and business problems ahead of technology. We’re an ecosystem catalyst. We connect our portfolio companies to the business community in ways that benefit both.

Rev1 helps portfolio companies find their first customers.

One of the real advantages to entrepreneurs who start their companies here is that we have connections with dozens of large corporations located in this region and have been told where and how they are spending money to solve big problems. Another advantage is that many of those companies aren’t afraid of new technology and are willing to give a startup with a great idea a chance.

We match up our portfolio companies with corporate partners (there are almost of 40 of them). The basis for the connection is more so than not, a startup that has a solution to a pre-identified business need that the corporation has decided to build organically or buy from a solutions provider. Last year, portfolio companies were able to solidify eight strategic wins that way. (Read more about Clarivoy’s success with Andy Mohr Automotive and homebuilder M/I Homes.)

Rev1 has another dozen pilot opportunities in the works with additional portfolio companies.

When an entrepreneur is able to sign up a first client or beta customer based on a relationship, especially when the spirit of that relationship originates from the customer’s desire to participate, the startup gains more than simply revenue—although when you’re bootstrapping, revenue is good!

Human relationships have power, even in the world of technology.

When Rev1 connects one of our portfolio companies with one of our strategic corporate partners, there’s an understanding that the startup has been thoroughly vetted from the entrepreneur to the application solution. There’s an extended value in being introduced to an exciting area of technology that is likely groundbreaking in their respective industry sectors.

Those of us on the venture team at Rev1 are entrepreneurs at heart. Most of us have been entrepreneurs in the past.

From our first discussion with potential portfolio companies, we emphasize customer development. We see providing qualified business opportunities as a pivotal responsibility in our support of startups and entrepreneurs.

Contact us to see how we can help your startup connect with your first markets and customers.