The joy of dealing with startups

The joy of dealing with startups


Interactive Knowledge On-Line is an e-business consultancy. With offices in Australia and overseas, the company has established its internal infrastructure and business model around the Web. CEO Aseem Prakash talks to Richard Noone.

ARN: What integrator and/or VAR partners do you deal with?

Prakash: We work with all kinds of companies but none that are brand-recognised. The Internet space is filled with talented startups. We've built up a network of loose affiliations with partners in this space.

What made you decide to partner with these organisations?

Initially, when setting up the business, a lot of the work was done externally. We used this network of partners to set up our business structure but today we do most of the work in-house.

We've got a strong customer focus so when we work with partners it's a case of working out what they can offer our customers and how they can service them better.

What have your impressions been of your partners and have they lived up to your expectations?

There are pros and cons to partnering with startups. They work fast and can react quickly, but because they are very small and personal they have their own business processes. They often don't have the same level of maturity or business structure in place as a larger company.

The challenge is to bring these companies together and provide the maturity and structure needed for dealing with customers. Also, a lot of the work is done remotely. Dealing with these companies remotely differs from dealing with them when you have a project team at your fingertips. It's an interpersonal exercise.

What are your impressions of the broader integration market? Has the standard of services offered improved?

I'm finding that two things are happening. The startup mentality of speed to market, agility and efficiency - their ability to achieve more with less - means that they generally don't have the maturity or the structured approach of larger companies.

This can be a benefit in terms of reacting quickly and being flexible or innovative in their approach, but with the Internet space you can be a hero today and gone tomorrow. It's constantly evolving.

I'm seeing that some startups are learning from the market and are changing accordingly. They're evolving and maturing into more sophisticated companies.

A lot has been said in the channel about value-added services. Do you think your partners have been effective in providing this?

Well yes, of course. But the whole issue of value add is a bit of a cliche with no meaning. Traditionally, it meant that if one company couldn't offer the whole solution it brought in others to add value to what they could offer a customer. I think this traditional view isn't relevant to the Internet space because this practice is expected of you - it's just become standard business practice.

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