For any entrepreneur looking to build and scale their company, perhaps the most repeated piece of advice is to focus on the customer. Take time to talk with them, understand their problems, and build a product that directly addresses those needs.
While that process of gathering customer feedback and integrating it into a product or service is necessary, it’s by no means sufficient to win a market. The harsh reality is that building a great product, even the best product on the market, is only one part of creating a successful company.
But how do you increase your chances of success beyond being product- and customer-focused? One strategy that has proven effective, especially for enterprise startups, is identifying and partnering with existing established companies, a topic covered at the recent SaaStock conference in October 2019. Jonno Southam, Venture Capital Business Development Manager at AWS, and Matillion Co-founder & CEO Matthew Scullion took the stage to lay out what they’ve seen work, both from the enterprise and startup side of partnerships.
Speaking from experience gained through previously running his own company and working with dozens of enterprise startups in his current role, Southam sees partnerships as a way to achieve global scale while avoiding a common misstep—becoming a consulting service. For many young enterprise companies, there’s a constant allure to build custom solutions for each new customer. Per Southam, not only is this not scalable, it’s expensive from a time and money perspective. By partnering with an established company, founders can achieve scale by leveraging an existing network to gain access to customers that otherwise would be beyond their reach.
For companies in the cloud computing space, an obvious partner is AWS, which has many programs built to help support its ecosystem for developers. This includes the AWS Marketplace, an online platform that features hundreds of products and services, including Matillion, a provider of data transformation software specifically built for cloud data warehouses.
Founded in 2011, Matillion originally started off as a business intelligence startup looking to serve medium-sized U.K. companies. In building that product, the team found themselves constantly having to set up data warehouses, and were frustrated with the lack of tools to help, so they decided to build their own. Since then, the company has grown massively, boasting 170 employees across 4 offices, dual-headquartered in Manchester and Denver with offices in Seattle and New York City. They’ve also pulled ~$60 million in venture funding, which includes a $35 million round in June of 2019.
For Matillion’s CEO Scullion, a key factor in his company’s ability to achieve a level of scale that most founders only dream of was finding the right partner to team up with. And in this case, that partnership was with the AWS Marketplace. “Given that many of our customers are Redshift users, this partnership gave us instant access to a targeted, global customer base, a low friction launch, and a simplified billing and collections process, with AWS handling much of the work.”
That said, Scullion is sure to point out that there are things that founders need to keep in mind when pursuing this type of partnership. Specifically, the customer access that is afforded does not mean the product will sell itself. Founders still need a thought out go-to-market strategy and sales process to support the partnership. Per Scullion, one essential piece of Matillion’s strategy is a robust content repository for developers looking to build out a proof of concept (POCs), which contain everything from technical documentation to videos, blogs and forums focused on answering questions that often arise.
So, for enterprise-focused founders looking to achieve global scale, it’d be smart to survey your market and identify a few key established companies to potentially team up with. When time and money are scarce resources, these partnerships can help up-and-coming startups accelerate their growth by extending their reach and easing the on-boarding process. But it’s also important to keep in mind that these aren’t one-stop-shops, and thought must be put into the entire go-to-market strategy.