The Startup Shortcut That Accelerates Your Growth and Turns Customers Into Fans
Partnerships for the purpose of sharing technology can be a mutual boon and the ultimate accelerator.
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Every choice has a cost.
Startups know this better than anyone. Choosing to bring your product to market quickly will limit the number of features you can include. Choosing to build the best, most comprehensive product on the market will take more time. It's a constantly shifting balancing act of technology, opportunity, and delivering value to customers.
But there's a way to maximize all three, to seize opportunities by getting more done in less time without building out your team. It's as close as you'll ever get to a shortcut.
It's a technology partner. Joining forces with a like-minded partner can make 1+1=3 and ignite your growth. Especially for startups in a new market, partners can help build and maintain competitive momentum.
Partnerships have helped fuel both of my startups, but one recent example shows the value of a technology partner and presents a strategy for finding one for your own company that can help you leap ahead in your growth.
How to find the right technology partner
Finding the perfect match isn't always simple. Don't assume you can identify the "right" tech, team, and values for your partnership from the outset. Instead, audit your needs, your goals, and the things you can't compromise on. That way, you know what the right partner looks like.
When customers asked us to add a new security feature to our platform, we followed these steps:
1. List out the technology you need and why
Maybe you need more comprehensive mobile features, want to add new tools to streamline internal processes, or see an opportunity to expand your product to new areas. All of these help narrow your search for a partner.
Define the goal of the integration, and describe the functionality of each new feature, keeping the user experience in mind. Map out the project workflow and milestones. Recruit your development team to meet exactly what's required.
We started with a goal of adding several security features and functions that our customers were asking for. That quickly sharpened our focus. Our company's developers went to work mapping out where and how these features would fit into our platform, and our search for a partner that could help make it a reality began.
Related: How to Gradually Infuse Tech Into Your Non-tech Startup
2. Vet the team
Technology is important, but so is the team that will deliver it. You need to know who comprises the team, what knowledge they possess, and how they operate -- in that order.
While it might be obvious, start by looking for a team with industry expertise. A successful partner needs to be aware of your compliance requirements, end-user preferences, and industry terminology. From there, evaluate what a relationship would look like with this partner. You'll be working hand-in-hand with them often. Open, anytime communication is critical.
For us, communication was key in our recent search. We eliminated many potential partners simply because they had a bureaucratic way of communicating. If problems arose, how long would it take them to respond? That's a risk we weren't willing to take.
Related: 5 Types of Technology That All Entrepreneurs Need Access to in the Digital Age
3. Don't compromise your vision
Your culture and organizational goals can be a litmus test for any partner. But it can also serve as a blueprint for conflict resolution or realignment, if necessary.
You'll need a hard and soft vision. Define the timeline and metrics and milestones of the integration project, but also describe the goal the partnership achieves and how each partner will see value.
We ultimately narrowed our choice down to two suitable partners. Both checked all the boxes in terms of technology and team. But only one had a vision that was as user-centric as ours. We knew they'd be accountable and work hard to make their tech work seamlessly with ours. In the end, this cultural fit was a key factor in our decision.
Related: How to Choose the Right Tech For Your Startup
The point of partnership
After following these steps, we found a partner that meshed seamlessly as an extension of our team. We got the new feature in place faster than we could have in house, and customers were happy not only to have what they wanted, but that we delivered it so quickly.
Every startup has to make choices that inevitably require tradeoffs. But by choosing the right partner, you not only minimize tradeoffs and maximize value, you can also accelerate your growth and turn customers into fans.