(written for BDX Access by Ron Braunfeld, EIR)
In my career, I have worked as a team member at five startups (some successful, some not) as well as being on the advisory board/investor in several others. In my experiences, business development is a key role in helping the company gain market adoption. Here are the four things I’ve learned over the years in biz dev:
1. In early stage start ups, Business Development is an amalgamation of marketing, sales, and product.
You need to be fearless in the prospecting hunt – not being afraid to call and write smart and intelligent emails. Once you’re in the door, you need to be able to succinctly describe the market opportunity you’re working to solve with your product, then show how your product is useful or makes/saves them money.
2. Teams of ‘1’ always lose.
The business development rep is the ‘quarterback’ of the deal. Once in the door, it’s the rep’s responsibility to assemble the troops of the team – product, engineers, customer service, etc. This accomplishes two important things:
a) People like to talk to their peers in their category – whether it’s product to product or engineer to engineer. The biz dev rep should never be a know it all. You will lose all credibility in trying to be one.
b) This makes your organization sometimes appear bigger than it really is.
3. In some cases, ‘no’ doesn’t necessarily mean ‘no’, it might really be an opportunity. You need to ask the right questions!
Early stage startups have an idea about the opportunity they are trying to solve in parallel to building products. However, and in many cases, this is not validated until a prospect is engaged and tells you what they want to buy. Remember: if a prospect shows interest in your product and market opportunity but wants certain bells and whistles to be added etc. – you need to be careful. Sure, this could be great. However, would it be reusable for other partners? Sometimes even if it’s something vastly different than you have thought of, that’s ok as long as it’s something others will want as well.
4. Strive to build long term relationships.
I have been fortunate to have built relationships with colleagues and partners alike. The current chairman of my company is someone I cold called and did a deal with while at my first startup. Over the course of the 15 years in between, we worked together at companies like MapQuest, WHERE, and PayPal. Be honest, straightforward, and have fun in the process.
Ron Braunfeld has over 15 years experience in the internet/mobile tech ecosystem. As a proven Sales & Biz Dev professional, Braunfeld has mastered building and implementing go-to-market strategies within large and small companies. He is currently VP Business Development for Pingup. Prior positions include PayPal, WHERE (acq. by Paypal in 2011 for 137mm), MapQuest, and SnipSnap.