Messages from the Valley – Pick the right green shoots

Will enterprise technology bloom or even boom like before when the economic frost melts? This was my key question when visiting the Bay Area recently. Birthplace of the semiconductor, networking, the dot com boom/bust, iTunes and Google, this is the IT hot house, where any tech green shoots would surely poke through first.

Startups in SaaS, The Cloud and Entrerprise Social Networks showing green shoots

Valley Startups in SaaS, The Cloud and Entrerprise Social Networks show green shoots

Not surprisingly, given the sunny nature of the environment and people, there was a great deal of optimism for the future and for the tech industry’s place in the post-crisis world. This will not though be just a return to ‘business as before’ – the Valley still moves on way too fast for that. The Cloud, Software-as-a-Service and enterprises embracing Social Networks internally and externally, mean there will likely be brand new champions springing forth from the eventual renaissance.

With a lack of VC funding, even for relatively mature start-ups – one comment I heard was ‘Now we are profitable, our backers won’t let us invest ahead of ourselves’, you may think picking winners should be easier. But fewer successful new tech start-ups is of course negative in a Darwinian sense. Less diversity means less adaptability during extended periods of poor growing conditions and even a forest full of green shoots is irrelevant, if the forest itself is under threat from bushfires. So we need a tech gene pool which is resilient to a few more future shocks.

So how do we European tech marketing suppliers pick the likely long-term winners coming out from the Valley? Positioning.

First and foremost, go for the management teams with large well-defined visions e.g. “Changing how accountancy software is delivered” or “Helping the world’s corporations exploit The Cloud safely” as opposed to “Leading solutions for X/Y/Z IT problem”.

Playing big is not just a measure of the ambition of the executive team, it is essential counsel. If you are positioning a company to benefit from a growth spurt, it is smart to be diverse in your messaging and therefore relevant to a lot of buyers.

It also helps to role-play your positioning before letting your blossoms bloom. Witness how fast today’s real-time bloggers proclaimed Wolfram Alpha a ‘Google killer’ and then ‘not ready for main street’ – in under a week. As they say “The justice of fail is swift and decisive”.

With as many false dawns as this recovery will have, it is worth spending some braincells on getting it right first time because rapid positioning U-turns can lead to extinction, especially when the VCs are nervous. The rapid reverses which marketing teams executed in previous economic cycles when their messaging let them down, simply may not be an option. So, to stretch the analogy to breaking point, here is the ‘Green shoots’ advice from Positive Marketing.

  1. Established a well-grounded marketing team (this may require senior external consultants)
  2. Water as well as you can to conserve the funding you have
  3. Head for big open spaces where the competition for light/awareness is less intense
  4. Make sure your flowers are positioned as attractive to as many bees (buyers) as possible

Plan on surviving more growing seasons than usual – could still be a long hard winter, despite the sun in the Valley


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