First dates with tech start-ups

by Ken Valledy @t2blimited, CEO and founder of Tech2Brand

Since I started Tech2Brand two years ago, I have arranged numerous meetings between marketing managers and tech start-ups.

The vast majority of these take place at the start-up’s location, usually a co-working space or an accelerator hub. I always aim to avoid having the meeting at the office of the brand team — getting a marketing manager away from his or her normal location, helps level the playing field at an early stage.

However, location aside, both sides come out of the first meeting slightly surprised in some way or another.

Listed below are the top 10 ‘first date’ surprises that I have experienced.

Marketing managers are surprised that…

1. The air is no different in the start-up world; it is just another business eco-system which exists in a big city.

2. The start-ups aren't run by 18-year olds, working from home, with acne, a great idea and nothing else.

3. Start-ups are all ages, either gender, and in the majority of cases, have some pretty impressive work experience behind them.

4. They (the brand) aren’t the only interest for the start-up. Most start-ups are talking to, or have started work with, many brands. Things move fast in the start-up world and business is business.

5. They (the brand) can actually learn from start-ups, especially the speed with which start-ups make decisions and constantly pivot their strategies.

On the other side of the table, start-ups are surprised that marketing managers…

6. Don’t carry big cheque books with them to make that instant six-figure payment (was this ever the case?).

7. Have other things on their mind and may not jump up and down with uncontrollable joy when they (the start-up) present their tech.

8. Are technically minded themselves and can, if in the mood, ask some pretty ‘techy’ questions.

9. Are different from anyone else that they have presented to (especially VCs). A different presentation and style needs to be adopted for a marketing manager — presenting an investment deck again isn’t the answer.

10. Will need time (and will take it) to make a final decision as to whether to work with the start-up.

OK, so some of the above points are slightly tongue in cheek. But the point is that both sides are very different and have very different expectations before the first meeting.

However, after the shock of the first date, both sides realise that there is an opportunity to be had and it would be beneficial to meet again — to have that second date.

Like everything in life, good things take time. Both sides need to tweak their initial expectations and look to collaborate and compromise with their new partner on an ongoing basis.

So it’s rarely love at first sight (for either side), but surely that wasn't really expected…was it?


This piece is part of a collection of 11 articles written by some of the leading industry innovators, tech start-ups, agencies and expert intermediaries. Download the full PDF

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