Pitching a new product to potential partners is a key part of getting a startup off the ground. It’s also a risk to be managed. How do you disclose enough to get them engaged and excited while still protecting your intellectual property?
In the course of negotiations, prospective partners often ask for some kind of exclusivity. This generally takes the form of an exclusive technology license for what may as well be eternity plus a year, or an exclusive right to resell your product in an overly broad territory; say, the world.
As many learn only after a great deal of lost time and opportunity, business development is a process, not a point-in-time tactic. Applying this process effectively means continually scanning market, customer and competitive landscapes for new opportunities and threats. An ecosystem map helps identify potential partners that can grow your business and strengthen your position against competitors.
The evolution of computing, and specifically software, as an industry can be seen as having moved through three major phases: first, a period dominated by industry giants like IBM, Honeywell and Burroughs, providing fully-integrated products to fully captive customers; second, the personal computer revolution of the 1980s, a time when discreet layers, or stacks, of hardware and software emerged, available from different vendors, yet tightly coupled to create end products; and third and presently, the emergence of technology ecosystems, like those of Apple, LAMP or Microsoft — entire communities and constellations from which customers acquire solutions, in part or in whole, locally or in the cloud.
During almost two decades of business development deals and alliance formation, I’ve sat along side and across the table from word-class negotiators at companies like Microsoft, Oracle, Intel and Accenture. I’ve also made enough humbling mistakes to learn the hard, lasting way what helps and hinders successful negotiations.