I recently attended a panel in New York that reminded me why I love enterprise startups and their founders. On the panel was one of Bowery’s Venture Partners, Neil Capel of Sailthru, as well as Shafqat Islam of NewsCred, backed by AOL Ventures – the fund through which we were born. It’s the great entrepreneurs behind successful enterprise companies that make me so excited to do what I do. Reflecting on the event, I clearly see four major reasons to love the enterprise.
Enterprise Founders Know How to Block and Tackle
Enterprise founders are all about execution. An idea is one thing, but great founders know how to evolve their business to make it work in any market. This makes success based more on meritocracy, than relying on “lightning strike” acquisitions in the consumer realm, where a business goes from obscurity to a billion dollar exit (ex. Instagram). It’s inspirational to find founders who not only build a great product, but build a great business, and work with them as they execute on that vision.
Enterprise Startups are a Different Kind of “Cool”
Your grandma may know about Facebook, Twitter or even Uber, but chances are she probably has never heard of Salesforce, Workday or VMware. Truth is, if you want Mark Zuckerberg media attention, the enterprise landscape probably isn’t for you. It’s more obscure and a lot harder to understand. Your friends can’t download your app, and your family may think you are speaking a foreign language when you try to explain how an ERP solution works. Enterprise businesses are challenging, that’s what makes them so interesting. Enterprise entrepreneurs are often building businesses based on years of experience around a particular functional or industry challenge. In many ways, this mechanism weeds out the less serious entrepreneurs, leaving behind those who want to start a company not because it’s “cool”, but rather because they are really passionate about solving a particular problem.
Enterprise Founders are Hustlers
Successful enterprise founders have grit and determination. They hit the streets, the phones, and the web to earn sales any way they can and that sales mentality is generally written into the DNA of at least one of a company’s co-founders, if not all of them. If you don’t love sales, you probably shouldn’t start an enterprise tech company. Closing a sale is one of the most difficult things you can do in the business world and I respect those that can read their customers well enough to make deals happen.
Enterprise Changes the World
It may sound cliché, but enterprise startups truly change the world. Businesses like Instagram and Snapchat may have broader appeal, but at the end of the day, it’s B2B companies that enable these companies to develop and thrive. The vast majority of the internet is free and the efficacy of adtech is enabling more and more sources of great content to be profitable and therefore, available to the people. At the end of the day, many of the digital products that consumers love wouldn’t exist without the foundation provided by their enterprise cohorts.