Partner Ecosystem Strategy for Startups Learned at Dreamforce

By Melanie Picard

The tech partner ecosystem can be overwhelming. At the first-ever Startup Summit, held in tandem with Dreamforce ‘15, Mulesoft CEO, Greg Schott, and Vidyard CEO, Michael Litt, shared their experience on leveraging partnership opportunities in the enterprise world.

Video analytics and hosting platform, Vidyard, based in Kitchener, Ontario, employs roughly 100 employees and recently closed its Series B round. Integration platform, Mulesoft, based in San Francisco, California, is north of a $100M annual run rate, closer to IPO every day. Two reputable SaaS companies at different stages of growth, equally useful advice.

Check out the video of this session here:

Size matters

“The bigger the company you want to partner with, the harder it is to make an impact.”
— Michael Litt, CEO, Vidyard

Matching up size-wise is very important if you’re an early stage company as closeness in size usually leads to a more meaningful, reciprocal partnership.

As you grow and you’re thinking about partnering with the big players, be sure you have what it takes to make a difference. The most productive partnerships are born from an offering that affects revenue line and enhances each partner’s product. What features do you provide, or problem do you solve, that your partner is not well-suited to provide to customers directly? How do you enhance one another’s product?

Build, buy or partner?

Expect that question to come up more often than not.

There is no correct answer; you have to figure out what works best for your startup as well as in your industry and market. The difference between building the product internally, acquiring another company or partnering is often speed.

“Acquisitions often don’t go well, so there’s got to be a really good reason to do it as a small company.” — Greg Schott, CEO, Mulesoft

Mulesoft avoids building products whenever possible. Vidyard, on the other hand, usually prefers to build in-house. Both companies have one acquisition under the belt, but rely heavily on their partner ecosystem for growth.

Mulesoft attributes its 100% YOY growth rate over the past three years to its partner channels. “It’s hard to grow at that rate just by hiring, you have to do it through partners,” says Greg Schott. Half of Vidyard’s customer base chose Vidyard because of integration options.

Setting expectations

Successful partnerships are mutually beneficial and require that each company set the right expectations to get there. How? Be clear about your roadmap, don’t commit resources you don’t have and, most importantly, prepare for worst case scenarios up-front.

Be patient. Valuable partnerships do not happen overnight, they are long-term investments. Your partner as an extension of your brand and team — invest in building a strong, transparent relationship.

Customer benefit

Last, but not least, your partnership is ultimately to add value to the customer experience.

With nearly 3,000 apps and over 3.3M installs, the Salesforce AppExchange is the world’s largest enterprise app marketplace and enables Sales Cloud customers to customize their CRM experience in every way imaginable — non-profits are even able to easily find apps relevant to their needs. We’re able to provide this ability thanks to our diverse partner ecosystem.

Meet the partners showcased at Dreamforce ’15 here.

Salesforce for Startups looks forward to another year of growth, so be sure to join our program as we start to share more thought leadership content. Also, be sure to catch any sessions you missed on our YouTube channel.

Looking forward to joining us at Dreamforce ’16, October 4–7 in San Francisco?

Pre-Register for Dreamforce ‘16. Lock in the lowest price, $999 for a short time only. Pre-register now and we’ll contact you with more details when it’s time to complete your registration.

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