Pretend for a minute you were trying to build the startup version of Frankenstein’s monster — minus the “monster” part.
Instead, your mission is to put together an entrepreneur who combines everything needed to take a business from an idea handwritten on a cocktail napkin to a fast-growing entity that might one day be on track to join the largest firms via an IPO. What parts would you be sure to include?
Some of the obvious ones are a strong ability to sell, marketing savvy, a head for finance and administration and of course an ability to develop great products and services. Beyond those, however, could be a lot of other elements. These could include a good sense of how to hire the best talent, how to negotiate deals with suppliers, and much, much more.
In real life, of course, there's no Dr. Frankenstein who can create such an all-star entrepreneur from scratch. Even those who seem to have been born to start and run their own business will inevitably have some gaps in their knowledge and skills that need to be cultivated over time. Some of it will come simply by gaining more experience as an entrepreneur, but one of the fastest ways is through forming partnerships with an organization like Salesforce Ventures.
Like venture capital (VC) firms and other funding entities, Salesforce Ventures invests in organizations that seem poised not only for growth but for contributing real value to the communities they serve. However, recognizing that potential, and supplying some of the capital to realize it, is only part of what such entities do.
An organization like Salesforce Ventures isn’t just helpful to small businesses because it is led by people who are seasoned entrepreneurs in their own right. They bring benefits to entrepreneurs because they are often highly selective about investing in young companies that share some similar characteristics. This could mean they have developed a portfolio of small businesses that are targeting a certain kind of industry or vertical market, for example.
In other cases they might be driven to help firms that are growing in part based on their strategic use of technology. In Salesforce Ventures’ case, much of its purpose is empowering other startups to thrive with cloud computing, just as the cloud helped unleash the full power of things like CRM, marketing automation, and customer service tools at Salesforce.
Canadian examples of startups that have already benefited from working with Salesforce Ventures include Vidyard, which has revolutionized the way companies across the country and beyond have boosted their ability to market and sell to customers using video. You can check out a video from Vidyard’s founder to learn more, along with many others.
If you’re an entrepreneur thinking about partnering with an organization like Salesforce Ventures, here are three benefits to keep in mind to make sure you get the most from the potential partnership opportunity:
Most startups and small businesses, at least the beginning, have a bit of an identity problem. They’re simply not known or trusted (yet) by the large enterprises, governments or even their fellow small businesses. That lack of a demonstrable track record can be crippling, unless you have a good way to get your foot in the door.
Partnering with an organization like Salesforce Ventures tackles that head-on, because those same prospective customers are likely to see an investment in your firm as a sort of seal of approval. It shows that those who not only have funding resources but deep expertise have looked over your business plan, asked some of the tough questions and have recognized your firm as “ready for prime time,” so to speak.
While this doesn’t automatically guarantee sales, many industries and markets can often feel like a small world. Announcing your partnership via your blog, a press release, social media and other channels may send a strong signal to the people you’re trying to reach that they should give you a good, hard second look. It might be enough to help set up that all-important first meeting.
Starting a business requires a bold vision, and you may already be able to imagine what your firm might look like once it’s more mature and successful. But what if you were able to actually step into a firm that already resembles that future version today?
Partnerships with the likes of Salesforce Ventures give entrepreneurs an inside look at a major enterprise without being a customer. In some ways, it might be the best kind of job shadowing you’ll ever undertake.
When you're looking for a partner, it’s a good idea to not only consider what it will take to get the capital you need from them, but what kind of team members you’ll be able to work with, customers to whom you might be introduced or events you’ll be invited to attend. In fact, meeting other portfolio company members could be equally valuable, especially if they’ve already gone a bit further in their entrepreneurial journey.
As an entrepreneur, you should be focused on creating something groundbreaking and new — not reinventing the wheel.
For so many small businesses, though, operating totally on your own means figuring out the answers to questions that other, more seasoned leaders learned a long time ago. Organizations like Salesforce Ventures give the firms with whom they partner the ability to connect with everyone from managers to product teams to bounce off their problems, confirm their hunches and get input on their growth strategy.
These mentorship opportunities are a core part of the value of partnering with an organization like Salesforce Ventures, so think about what you can draw upon from those with a long history of growing sales, nurturing cultures and giving back — and do this before the investment ever happens.
In some ways, these partnerships are not unlike the best customer relationships you’ll develop: they require planning, thoughtfulness, and an ongoing commitment to bring out the best in each other.