10 Considerations for the Startup planning to offer to the Enterprise (and why many will fail)

Lately, I’ve been hearing from more startups that they want to get into the enterprise space. These consumer focused web startups are the ones we know and love with the clever non-sensical names, rounded corners, and domains missing the “e”.

For many startups, having enterprise customers is a great proposition, as it gives the opportunity for repeat revenue from a stable source, partnership opportunities, and maybe even chances for acquisition.

[While many startups are interested to offer their services to Enterprise companies, they underestimate the complexity. There are many overlooked requirements from culture to support that startups just don’t get]

Sadly, while we love these tools on the free open web for our personal uses, many of them aren’t ready for a smooth transition into an enterprise web teams and by serious business folks and executives. A new set of rigorous feature requirements need to be met, including disposing of the ‘fun brand’ and getting ready to support demanding corporate clients.

10 Considerations for the Startup planning to offer to the Enterprise

1) Most importantly, find a business opportunity or pain that you plan on fixing.

2) Re skinning: In many cases, offer a white label tool so it can be rebranded by the consumer.

3) Offer an ASP version as business units will want to adopt without the IT department. (Update: ASP as in Application Service Provider, so a web-version hosted on your servers, so they customer doesn’t have to download any software, or have to rely on IT to do this. Typepad, SalesForce, and SurveyMonkey are examples of this)

4) Later, evaluated offering a software version that IT and Engineering can download and use on internal or secured severs behind the firewall,

5) Build a robust system that won’t fail from heavy enterprise use, sadly, Twitter would never make it.

6) Develop login and permission systems that work with a variety of identity systems, ensure data can be easily transferred to clients, use industry standards.

7) Provide a healthy dashboard and metrics for the clients administrative team

8 ) Hire sales and account teams that have backgrounds in corporate. For initial sales with a business unit, expect to sail through, but expect rigorous testing, negotiations, and detailed contracts when dealing with corporate purchasing departments.

9) On demand support: Dealing with enterprise clients requires a higher degree of support, expect to jump, leap, and spring into action at the request of your corporate clients.

10) Get serious: consider rebranding and refocusing the tool. Refine or create a separate marketing effort to aim for the enterprise space, consider creating a sub-brand.

While it’s sure attractive for startups to want to offer their products to corporations, many have not thought through the implications and requirements to be enterprise class. Quite frankly, many won’t have the aptitude, resources, or time to do this right.

[Many startups will offer to the enterprise, but most will fail. Successful startups offering to the enterprise need to have maturity, and it’s not something that can be masked]

If I’ve missed any considerations, please extend the list, by leaving a comment or sharing from your own blog

A special note about terms: While it would have been so easy for me to use the term Enterprise 2.0 I used every precaution to actually describe and explain the concepts rather than just using that term. I hope that you too become mindful before using that term, as well as Web 2.0. Show your mastery: focus on descriptions and outcomes rather than buzzwords.