The Startup Dilemma

“To be or not to be,” that apparently is the question facing Ireland’s entrepreneurs, up to 40% of whom believe that established companies shy away from doing business with startups. This is according to the findings of the recent NDRC Report “The Start Up Psyche” which was published in April 2018.

For those of us who work with tech start-ups, this comes as no surprise at all. Over the years, I have been asked to gloss over their startup status by several of the firms I have worked for, with some even preferring not to announce significant 7 figure fundraising milestones for fear that they might appear too, well, ‘start up’. I have even been invited to work on-site while investors or customers were visiting to help with the head count appearances on more than one occasion.

To be fair there is good reason for this concern, particularly for tech firms. Choosing a tech product often means choosing a ‘direction’ – so the relationship between tech firm and customer is more likely to take the form of partnership than straight once-off transaction, with the possibility of support, upgrades, future proofing etc. all built in. So obviously, a startup will do everything in its power to project the impression of longevity and permanence in order to attract – or at least, not discourage – prospective customers – and underplay any hint of transience, in order to reassure the customer.

The reality is this though: you can never fully hide your startup status from those who actually do end up in the purchase process of your products or services. And it is also worth saying that your ‘start up’ status is extremely attractive to other key audiences, particularly investors and ambitious talent in the skills pool. And these are also important ingredients in your success story.

There is a better middle way than all this nervous subterfuge: incorporate your dynamic start up status as part of your ‘story’, rather than seeking to hide it completely from view. Giving the startup elements of your narrative appropriate weight will mean that you are not just focusing on one audience (prospective customers) with your story, but also communicating your dynamism, ambition and success with other key groups as well: potential investors, support agencies, ambitious skills pool, existing investors and employees. All of these groups also have a key role to play in your success, and all will be very attracted by the startup thread of your narrative.

So tell your whole company story, and confidently incorporate your dynamic startup status as part of that, and you will be able to make the most out of advantages by attracting skills, talent, investment and supports to your firm.

(pic: Cherry Blossom.)

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