After working as a freelance marketing consultant for the past couple of years, I feel like I’ve seen it all. Experienced founders, novice founder, great ideas and mediocre ones, kickass investors and not-so-smart-money. I was fortunate to enough to work with startups that would make it big time, as well as others who are not so likely to succeed.
I’ve developed a keen eye for what’s working and what not, and when the proposal came to join yet another startup (I’ve worked at several startups in the past and were part of founding teams of startups, most of which never got out of the “garage” phase), I was forced to think long and hard if this was the right move for me. So I started with what I’ve learned about the startups that “worked”.
The first thing to examine is the team.
Arguably, the primary reason startups fail is that their founding (and later, primary employees) team fall apart or fall into such disagreement that the startup life becomes unbearable.
So I made sure the founders were solid, fun to be around and were very realistic about what it will take to make this work. I also asked around and received Steller recommendations from people I trust, ensuring that the founders are top grade.
I then set to explore the market SecuriThings operates at. The rule of thumb for investors is that a startup needs to target a big and growing market. IoT is a huge market and it is forecast to grow at such rapid pace that it is certain that companies operating in this space are ensured growing clientele.
Room to innovate
Having a large market is crucial, but if this market is saturated (think Adtech, fintech or cloud) it will be almost impossible to succeed. IoT is new and lacks clear segmentation- consumers, enterprises, service providers, and organizations are all mixed together and there are no clear market leaders and incumbents. This will enable smaller companies to play greater roles until the unavoidable consolidation will sweep this market. In addition, having such a varied landscape opens the door to vulnerabilities – therefore increasing the need for security solutions.
Product market fit
If all the above falls into place, the startup’s main goal in its first years is to achieve product-market fit. I’ve seen companies with great technologies that made products nobody wanted to buy, or companies that went to cater to a pressing market need but were never able to build the product they aspired to.
SecuriThings has both a mature, operational product and it answers a great need in today’s IoT deployments- the need to provide ample security to all users and stakeholders (consumers, service providers, IoT platforms, and enterprises).
This is demonstrated by an impressing initial install base, solid pipeline and some very notable partnerships that the company has established in the last year.
Having achieved product-market fit (meaning- people are willing to buy and use the product), the startup’s next goal is to gain exponential traction. From what I’ve seen with other security vendors is the even hard than achieving the initial fit. Usually, companies sell to a few customers, then hire VP sales abroad, try to sell to some additional customers and grow at a very modest pace (if any). Given IoT growth and the need to secure it, coupled with the fact that SecuriThings technology is made to be deployed over the cloud or by partners, will enable an accelerated rate of growth, far greater than the usual “enterprise” security products (most of which are installed on-premise or require lengthy implementation and training).
Deciding when to join a company is nearly as crucial as decided which company to join. I’ll be joining the company after it has been on the road for some time, ensuring its maturity (no pivoting on a daily basis).
On the other hand, it’s not too late for me to make a difference, and I really can impact all the areas that are important to me (brand, GTM strategy, and positioning).
So I now assume this startup will succeed, but Is this a good fit for me, personally?
Betting on the startups’ success is one thing (VCs do this all the time), but gauging whether this will be a good place for me personally is quite another. There are no certainties in life but the rule I usually follow is that to in order to know someone you have to work with them.
So I have.
I’ve been working with the team for about 6 months, now, and we’ve got to know each other pretty well. I fact, I’m certain they used our time working together to mutually assess me as well. I no feel confident that we will be able to productively work together and have fun doing so. This is one of the perks of working as a consultant, and I must say I’ve gauged every company I’ve worked with other the years, but I haven’t thought for one minute to join any of these companies (and there were more than a dozen), but here there seems to be a very good personal fit.
Will I be able to add value?
This is a tough question, one that involves honesty and self- scrutiny. I assume by now that I could deliver good results for any growing company in the cybersecurity field, but my ability to deliver outstanding value to the company will change according to its maturity stage and specific niche. It happened to be that I accel at early stage companies that are now focused on brand recognition, growth, and conversion (I’m honest enough to acknowledge that I won’t accel at larger, more established companies who have known brands with structured distribution channels). It also happens to be that I have previous experience with the physical security and smart city industries, so I feel that I could add value from day one, not only at the marketing angle but also on the business side, leveraging my connections in the industry and clients.
Where will this lead me personally?
I hope this position will propel me to the next level in my career.
I hope I will be able to take this lesser-known brand and make it an industry staple, help lead toward commercial success and everything that follows. It will be the first time I have taken such a company through the entire growth cycle, and I look forward to following it through. All in all, I see this as a great opportunity, and I look forward to achieving success and having along the way.
I want to thank all those who supported me along my journey- friends, colleges, and customers. Although I won’t be providing consulting services anymore, you are free to call or text me anytime and I promise to help as much as I can.
Have a great year in 2018!