Startups work together all the time, and we don’t talk about it enough. Young, innovative companies collaborate regularly. We stick together. Partnering, selling to each other and sharing best practice.
And there is good reason for this. There is often a natural fit between our products, and a natural affinity in terms of what we’re trying to achieve. Whether a plucky founder has created a consumer-facing app, a business to business software platform, or a new payment solution; we all want the same thing: to use technology to improve the lives of our customers. Simple.
I run the UK branch of Payfit, a fast growing startup that was born in France, and now has offices all over Europe. We already work with Revolut, GuestReady and Heetch. These companies are young, hungry, and growing fast. Revolut is perhaps the most exciting new bank in the world; GuestReady is already making acquisitions of its own; and Heetch is backed by a very exciting group of venture investors. Working with these companies – and many more like them – is a dream.
If you’re starting a company, I’d advise that you make these businesses your customers, and start buying their pruducts and services too. There are three reasons why, which I’ve listed here.
First, innovators, by definition, grow fast and scale quickly. Working with one fast-growth innovator is like working with three or four more established firms. They may go from five to 100 employees within a couple of years of you starting to work with them. What does this mean? Well, for starters, as a customer or partner, this will mean they’ll be an excellent test of your service.
If you can handle the evolving needs of a fast growing startup, you will have tested your product and service at multiple stages of a company’s life cycle, all as part of one client relationship. And not only is this a fantastic way to test and learn but, like you, they will have high standards. You will therefore need to serve them at the same level throughout their growth. After all, an excellent product and service is what’s driving their growth.
Second these companies are, at core, disruptors. Revolut, to take an example, now has over 2 million users, and is reinventing banking release by release. At the end of July, for instance, it began its roll-out of commission-free trading.
There is a world of difference between a fast-growth, successful startup and an potentially lazier, slower, incumbent corporate. If you are dealing with a corporate, the process for working together is going to be protracted. They will have developed systems and processes that mean integrating your service will not happen quickly and, once plugged in, it will not evolve quickly, either.
A related trap many startups fall into is heavily customising their product and service to one particular corporate customer. Making a whole bucket of changes to keep one big time CTO happy. Working with small, nimble companies means your tech will need to be suitable for as many fast-growing companies as possible – so you can grow, and so you can deal with the speed of evolution.
This is how you build a resilient product: one that, at the outset, can be flexible and dynamic enough to work for all customers. Building for one, very staid, company means restricting how fast you can grow: you’ll have to keep building for each customer and fall into the corporate speed of doing things.
Third, there is an unspoken solidarity between those who are building ground-breaking technologies. If you’ve worked in a fast growing technology company, you’ll know exactly what I mean: we look to support each other however we can.
Even if founders or employees don’t yet know each other, they know they’re of the same world, facing similar challenges and heading towards similar goals. We are all ambitious, but we know cooperation can help us improve a service faster.
As a company, we’ve always sought to help out others where we can, and it feels like that’s mutual. This is compounded by a point touched on earlier: because we all aim to build first-rate tech solutions to problems, we tend to seek out the same to help us successfully run our own businesses.
Fast-growth tech startups are extremely demanding of the products they use internally – as they should be. If you can keep up with your fellow innovators, and build a product that they will love, you will be ready to take on the world.
By Nick Miller, UK Managing Director of PayFit.