In this edition of Startup Milestones we explain why it pays to work at a corporate before going at it alone. Especially in B2B, you wouldn’t want to start your startup straight out of school. First, spend a couple of years working for a mature company in that industry. Paulo Gomes, cofounder of Wizdee, names three reasons why this is the better strategy. And he knows what he is talking about – after only a few years, Wizdee was named in Gartner’s report as one of four global leaders in natural language search, next to Google and Microsoft. Amazing! The full interview starts at minute 6:45 on Startup Milestones podcast.
Domain and industry knowledge
Paulo is convinced that if your startup plans to build a complex product for a specific domain, knowledge of that industry is essential. If you work in that industry, “you learn the pains, problems and shortcomings of existing solutions”, he says. And you see how the value chain is set up, how companies work together economically, and how they integrate technologically.
This knowledge will allow you to position your startup in that ecosystem: where do you fit in the value chain? What problem are you solving better than current solutions? How much value are you creating for whom, and how can you monetize it, i.e. who will pay you for it?
More than just a product
If you start your own startup, the ultimate goal is not only to produce the better product. A startup needs to develop all parts of a successful business: a sales organization, marketing, operations. These are just three critical areas Paulo mentions.
When you work in a mature B2B organization, you can observe and see how it can be done. You can pick the things that work, and improve those that you want done differently according to your personal business philosophy and company culture.
Make it your “hidden agenda” to learn as much as possible about this. Go outside your own department. Offer to join cross-functional teams, meet for lunch with people from other departments, and ask them smart questions. What you’ll learn will save you tons of trial-and-error once you start your own company.
Contacts and relations
Make contacts inside and outside your employer’s organization. Contacts, that you might need for your own startup: potential clients, pilot customers, industry experts, advisors, mentors, investors. Use your position at your employer to approach them.
Important: don’t just “make contacts” – really start building relationships of mutual interest, respect and trust. This takes time – so it’s great you can do it while being paid by your employer, isn’t it? And it will save you a lot of time when you start your own startup.
So, again, add this to your “hidden agenda” – strategically screen the industry and define “high level targets”. Then figure out ways to approach them by using your current role or simply the reputable name of your employer. Happy hunting!
You just finished school and don’t have the “the big idea” yet? Or you are currently working for a mature company, thinking about starting your own business? In both cases: understand the amazing opportunities you have when you join or work for a mature company before you start your own startup. Use your “employee status” strategically to build industry knowledge and develop relations, and to learn how the company works. That way you can set yourself up for a successful startup launch down the road!