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Finding Customers Ahead of a Startup Launch Lining up buyers in advance of launch can be challenging for a new company. But finding the right ones--and capitalizing on them--can go a long way toward ensuring early success.

By Christopher Hann

Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When Ariel Seidman left Yahoo last year to start his own tech company with two former co-workers, he knew that success out of the gate would hinge on having some big-name customers already lined up. So he spent most of his time in Silicon Valley coffee shops or on conference calls explaining the idea behind Gigwalk--harnessing the power of millions of iPhone users to create what the company likes to call "the first on-demand mobile work force"--and gauging the market need for its services.

By the time Gigwalk launched in May, Seidman--along with co-founders Matt Crampton, the chief technology officer, and David Watanabe, the chief of design--had lined up TomTom, the Amsterdam-based maker of satellite navigation devices, and MenuPages, the online restaurant directory.

"It took on a life of its own after we started going out there and talking to people about it," Seidman says. "When you actually launch, having customers you can talk about gives confidence to other potential customers. They figure, 'If a brand like TomTom is willing to use this new company, then I'm willing to use it as well.'"

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