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Can vendors please stop pretending to be start-ups

Can vendors please stop pretending to be start-ups

ARN's partners inside the industry lift the lid on the real world of the channel

We all know how it starts, with a predictable slide housing a grainy picture from many decades ago.

If the photo is a humble looking garage situated in a suburban estate then even better, and don’t forget the scruffy looking hippy-like founders leaning over a chunky computer.

In fact, throw in a cheesy headline on top — such as ‘a home for innovation’ — and you have the trifecta!

And then the sales guy in the baggy suit stands centre stage and takes all the credit, before uttering those dreadful, stomach churning words — “we’re the world’s oldest start-up”.

No, you’re not. You work for IBM, HP, Dell EMC, HPE, Microsoft, Cisco and Oracle — collectively, you represent over 300 years of market presence.

Ask the Oxford English Dictionary, and the definition is crystal clear — a newly established business.

Yet the term and the very notion of being a “start-up” has been bandied around the channel with increasing frequency, used with reckless abandon by vendors desperate for acceptance to the “cool” gang.

Those who sip the start-up Kool- Aid define it as a mentality, a culture, a way of life — need I go on?

But to be honest, it’s a word that should not be in the vocabulary of any traditional tier-1 vendor, and should be saved for those actually starting businesses, whether that be emerging partners or software-as-a-service (SaaS) players.

Because the industry is bursting at the seams with new and innovative businesses, businesses that are building code and offering software to the global market.

As a partner, I don’t need some patronising ‘evangelist’ (great job if you can get it) preaching to me about how an organisation that has traditionally been a pain to deal with has suddenly been reborn.

The most common line is ‘think like a start-up’, which essentially means that a vendor wants the channel to know it’s increasing investment in R&D and might, just might, be bringing out a game-changing product in the coming months.

And they’ll call it a Google, Samsung or Apple killer, because that’s how disruptive start-ups speak.

To hammer home this point, I imagine internal communications circle instructions as to why staff must follow Elon Musk on LinkedIn, must share inspirational quotes with sandy beaches in the background and must quote Uber or Airbnb at every living opportunity.

Oh, and please, we know Jack Ma was rejected by KFC yet went on to create Alibaba. Kudos Jack, that’s a good show, but forgive me for not wanting to read your blog post entitled —“I built a start-up and failed and here’s what I learned...”

So, what’s my advice to vendors? Cut the nonsense and get to the point. Vendors today are becoming more concerned with spouting mission statements than explaining business models, market differentiation and for partners, how the channel can make money.

Why do I care that your mission is to empower every person and every organisation on the planet to achieve more? It’s an admirable endeavour but as a partner, I want to know why I should back you.

Unfortunately, the channel has become inundated with fluffy marketing rhetoric that carries little weight and fails to offer a clear indication as to the actual roadmap of an organisation.


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