Best of Breed Startups Often Initially Differentiate And Delight Customers With Extreme Customer Centricity

The journey to an initial public offering (IPO) often brings an intense customer-centric culture and focus that separates the startup vendors from their legacy competitors.  These startup vendors woo their prospects with not only their emerging technologies and solutions, but also a commitment to enable their customer’s to deliver on disruptive business models.  These vendors earn their market share and mind share by delivering on this brand promise.  When customers partner with these vendors, they:

Gain direct access to the company’s decision makers.  The founders and key executives spend time with the prospects and clients.  All parties establish strong relationships and even friendships.

Yield significant influence on product road map.  Vendors care about customer’s requirements.  Each side works to identify what is a platform, a core feature, configurable option, and a customization.  Platform and core feature requests often center around industry, geography, and business models.  Each side is vested with symbiotic success.

Receive extreme customer service and success. Issues with bugs, broken functionality, and implementation issues receive instant response by vendors.  Their goal is to ensure the customer’s go-live and success.

Secure pricing discounts for early adoption.   Early adopters receive a risk discount for betting early and partnering with new startups.  These discounts often reflect the amount of joint effort required to take a solution live.

Evangelize success in sharing their stories. Vendors shower customers with opportunities to tell their story.  Client success leads to media exposure, customer events, and career promotion.  In many cases, the vendor may offer the client an opportunity to work for them as well.

This vendor-customer partnership leads to an amazing growth for the vendor and great success for the customer.  The reward for freeing themselves from the shackles of legacy technology providers delivers massive gains.   The emergence of a successful new market category encourages other startups to follow suit and forces legacy vendors to respond to this new customer centricity.  As a result, the industry advances forward while clients and prospects take steps to accelerate their business and technology strategy based on these experiences.

Post-IPO Or Acquisition, Most Startups Act More Like The Legacy Vendors They Replaced

Once public or acquired, these organizations struggle to retain their culture of innovation, customer centricity, and growth rates.  The push to IPO often drives the company into 80 to 120% CAGR.  Post IPO, they must deliver more consistent growth.  So long they deliver more than 40% organic and inorganic growth year-over-year, investors leave the newly minted publicly traded company alone.   However, in many cases, the push to IPO stretches their ability to continue growth at breakneck speeds.  How the startup achieves IPO often dictates their ability to succeed post-IPO.  A bad business model will fall apart post-IPO (see Figure 1)

Figure 1. The Life Cycle Of Startups

As the shiny new object faces the pressure of public markets, the focus on growth or focus on profit margin often shifts the company culture.  Announcements of experienced industry veterans joining the ranks often lead to standardization and a push to scale the business.  Now public, the post-IPO business types take over to scale the business.  They attract MBAs to join the ranks.  This new wave of employees bring their case study approach and cast aside the core ideals.  They often take credit for other people’s work.  Teams start focusing on politics instead of delivering on sales or product.  Pre-IPO folks battle the post-IPO folks.  The new managers force an overhead and level of process required to scale.

The result – the startup types and company heroes who took the company to IPO begin a slow ebb of departures.  In some cases, the founders leave within a year.  Now keep in mind, these individuals were hired in the startup phase because they knew when to do the right thing for the customer.  They didn’t have playbooks, process maps, approval requirements.  They often changed jobs on a monthly basis, reached across functional fiefdoms to deliver for the customer.  They didn’t care what metrics were good for one department versus another.   They delivered on the brand promise and were empowered.  They could talk to management without having to go through a gopher.  There was a meritocracy.  In many cases, they were inefficient, they were not consistent, and they didn’t take orders well from management.   However, they did what was good for the company and could see the impact of their contributions.  Unfortunately, over time the corporate types drive a culture clash that leads to an exodus of innovation and talent.

Customers do notice a change in the company’s behavior and culture.  Decisions that used to take days now take weeks.  A favorite service agent or sales rep leaves.  Calls for new requirements go unanswered.  As these post-IPO companies exhibit more and more legacy incumbent like bad behavior, customers begin to complain.  Partners and system integrators notice a fractious relationship.  The great hot-flying startup slowly takes on the characteristics of the legacy incumbents they replaced.  New startups challenge their position.

Early Adopter Customers Face This Arrogance Right Now From Successful Startup To Newly Minted Public Companies

Market leaders and fast followers now face challenges when dealing with west-coast VC backed startups who finally become newly minted public companies and extremely arrogant.  This also happens in acquisition.

Right now a growing number of customers face this arrogance from their favorite startup in social business, mobile enablement, cloud, big data, and unified communications.   Without naming the vendors acting on their worst behavior, here are some true customer quotes from conversations with hundreds of clients:

“Upon renewal, my favorite HR Tech startup jacked up my rates 25% on renewal”

“I was told by our CRM/CX vendor that we were no longer important to the company now that we have bigger clients”

“My cloud HRTech vendor told me that our rates were significantly discounted in our initial deal and despite our divestiture, you now have to pay up, so we won’t be reducing your costs”

“We used to receive excellent response times to our feature requests from our collaboration vendor, now they push out products we don’t care for and expect us to pay for them”

“We’ve been complaining about the mobile UI for the past three years.  In the past, we would at least have some influence on the product direction.  Since we have no new additional sales, our new sales guy ignores us”

“Our relationship with our HRTech sales person has gone down hill. Despite helping him out early and a repeat customer in many deals, they are only focused on new sales and no longer spend time building out our relationship”

“We’re moving back to the legacy vendors who have figured out the the best of breed is now a feature in their stack/platform”

“The company is now PR driven, not product driven. They are more worried about appearances than hearing the truth”

Analysts Often Recognize Five Factors Of A Failing Vendor

Constellation often can tell when a vendor has made the shift into arrogance from five factors:

Vendors begin selling vapor ware with product announcements six months out.  Releases are late and products are shipped with questionable customer value.

Corporate communication teams (influencer relations, analyst relations, public relations) clamp down on access to key executives.  They play gate keeper to the analysts and want to be in control of all communications and budget.  Instead of enabling change and input, they shut down dialogue and add friction to the relationship.

Executives no longer have thick skin in taking private criticism.  They’d rather hear happy thoughts than face reality when presented with the facts.  They shun direct feedback and focus on keeping to the message.

Founders and key employees exit the company and are replaced by post-IPO margin types.  The replacements bring bad habits from the legacy companies they came from and drag down the company culture.

Partners complain about the difficulty in working with the vendor.  Vendors begin to compete with partners for their revenue streams.  Partners no longer trust a handshake deal.

The Bottom Line: Business And Technology Strategy Must Account For The Post-IPO Jekyll And Hyde

To avoid the Post-IPO Jekyll and Hyde, Constellation suggests three concrete steps to minimize the damage.  For existing customers, successful application of these three principles in contract renewals will help refocus the relationship to a win-win paradigm:

Use the Customer Bill of Rights in all contract negotiations.  Make sure you protect yourself from the life cycle of technology engagement.

Leverage industry analysts to keep the vendors in line.  By serving as a third party confidant, analysts can bridge the gap between the vendor and the customer.  More importantly, the poor treatment of a client by a vendor impacts the analyst’s perception of a vendor.

Line up alternatives.  Begin the process of finding alternatives.  Good candidates include organizations who have put the startup features into their suite or platform.

For more customized approaches, feel free to reach out to any member of the Constellation team.

Get All 10 Lessons Learned From Disrupting Digital Business

Here’s everything you need to know from the best selling book – “Disrupting Digital Business” published by Harvard Business Review Press:

Lesson 1 – Transform Business Models And Engagement

Lesson 2 – Keep The Brand Promise

Lesson 3 – Sell The Smallest Unit You Can

Lesson 4 – Know That Data Is The Foundation Of Digital Business

Lesson 5 – Build For Insight Streams

Lesson 6 – Win With Network Economies

Lesson 7 – Humanize Digital With Digital Artisans

Lesson 8 – Democratize Distribution With P2P Networks

Lesson 9 – Deliver Intention Driven, Mass Personalization At Scale

Lesson 10 – Segment by Digital Proficiency Not Age

In fact, the impact is significant and now quantifiable with 52% of the Fortune 500 gone since 2000 and the average age of the S&P 500 company in 1960 is down from 60 years to a little more than 12 projected in 2020.  That is a 500% compression that has changed the market landscape forever in almost every industry.

Your POV.

Are you tired of the arrogant public-IPO startup who’s broken your relationship?  Want to move back to a win-win?

Add your comments to the blog or reach me via email: R (at) ConstellationR (dot) com or R (at) SoftwareInsider (dot) org.

Please let us know if you need help with your Digital Business transformation efforts. Here’s how we can assist:

Developing your digital business strategy

Connecting with other pioneers

Sharing best practices

Vendor selection

Implementation partner selection

Providing contract negotiations and software licensing support

Demystifying software licensing


Event Report: @AirWatch #AWConnect 2015 Shows Shift From EMM To Platform September 23, 2015

Tuesday’s Tip: IOT and The Death Of OmniChannel Non-sense In Customer Experience September 22, 2015

News Analysis: @Cisco and @Apple Team Up At #GSX August 31, 2015

Event Invitation: Come Join Us For A Silicon Valley CXO Day At Constellation’s Connected Enterprise #CCE2015 August 26, 2015

News Analysis: @Infosys Announces Three New Service Lines #AiKiDō August 20, 2015

News Analysis: @Oracle Announces Agreement To Acquire Marketing Cloud A/B Testing Firm @Maxymiser August 20, 2015

News Analysis: @Infor Acquires @GTNexus for $675M August 11, 2015

News Analysis: Inside Alphabet – G Is For Google August 10, 2015

News Analysis: Infosys One-Year After Vishal Sikka August 4, 2015

Event Report: Sage Summit 2015 Shows A Refocus On The Future Of The SMB Customer July 29, 2015

News Analysis: Inside The Rationale Behind @LinkedIn Turning Off Its CSV Connections Download Tool July 25, 2015

News Analysis: How @LinkedIn Is Creating A Personal Data Hostage Crisis For Its Users July 25, 2015

Tuesday’s Tip: Apply For A SuperNova Award – Recognize Leaders In Digital Business July 21, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 10 From Disrupting Digital Business – Segment By Digital Proficiency Not Age July 12, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 9 From Disrupting Digital Business – Deliver Intention Driven, Mass Personalization At Scale July 2, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 8 From Disrupting Digital Business – Democratize Distribution With P2P Networks June 22, 2015

Webinar Invite: Delivering on Continuity – The Future of Marketing June 15, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 7 From Disrupting Digital Business – Humanize Digital With Digital Artisans June 14, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 6 From Disrupting Digital Business – Win With Network Economies June 10, 2015

Product Review: Two Apple Watch Enterprise Apps Launched With IMS Health Life Sciences Wearable Platform June 7, 2015

Event Report: Zuora’s #Subscribed15 Shows How Organizations Can Power Their Digital Transformation Initiatives May 31, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 5 From Disrupting Digital Business – Build For Insight Streams May 31, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 4 From Disrupting Digital Business – Know That Data Is The Foundation May 25, 2015

Book Summary: Lesson 3 From Disrupting Digital Business – Sell The Smallest Unit You Can May 17, 2015

Webinar Invite: Disrupting Digital Business – The Customer Experience Imperative May 16, 2015

Quips: Networked Economy Models Emerge Should Verizon Gain Approval To Acquire AOL May 12, 2015

Event Report: Inside The Apple #SpringForward Event

Event Report: Inside the #SXSW2015 Phenom – Meerkat

Personal Log: Our Alliance With Digital Clarity Group

Research Report: Enterprise Healthcare Management (EHM) – Healthcare Meets Analytics

News Analysis: Rumors On Apple’s Foray Into Cars “Project Titan”

News Analysis: Inside the First Industry-Specific Mobile Apps by the IBM MobileFirst for Apple iOS Partnership

News Analysis: Going Deeper Into The Apple And IBM New Business Model Alliance

Quips: Digital Transformation – Defining The Fundamental Elements For Digital CXOs

Personal Log: Coming soon! Disrupting Digital Business – The Book

News Analysis: Adobe EchoSign’s Electronic Signatures Goes 100% Mobile

Monday’s Musings: Who Gets To Be A Chief Digital Officer?

Monday’s Musings: The Seven Rules For Digital Business And Digital Transformation

Tuesday’s Tip: Five Steps To Starting Your Digital Transformation Initiative

Monday’s Musings: What Organizations Want From Mobile

Research Summary: Economic Trends Exacerbate Digital Business Disruption And Digital Transformation (The Futurist Framework Part 3)

Research Summary: Five Societal Shifts Showcase The Digital Divide Ahead (The Futurist Framework Part 2)

Research Summary: Sneak Peaks From Constellation’s Futurist Framework And 2014 Outlook On Digital Disruption

Research Report: Digital ARTISANs – The Seven Building Blocks Behind Building A Digital Business DNA

Research Summary: Five Societal Shifts Showcase The Digital Divide Ahead (The Futurist Framework Part 2)

Research Summary: Next Generation CIOs Aspire To Focus More On Innovation And The Chief Digital Officer Role

Trends: [VIDEO] The Digital Business Disruption Ahead Preview – NASSCOM India Leadership Forum (#NASSCOM_ILF)

News Analysis: New #IBMWatson Business Group Heralds The Commercialization Of Cognitive Computing. Ready For Augmented Humanity?

Harvard Business Review: What a Big Data Business Model Looks Like

Monday’s Musings: How The Five Consumer Tech Macro Pillars Influence Enterprise Software Innovation

Tuesday’s Tip: Understand The Five Generation Of Digital Workers And Customers

Monday’s Musings: The Chief Digital Officer In The Age Of Digital Business

Slide Share: The CMO vs CIO – Pathways To Collaboration

Event Report: CRM Evolution 2013 – Seven Trends In The Return To Digital Business And Customer Centricity

News Analysis: Sitecore Acquires Commerce Server In Quest Towards Customer Experience Management

News Analysis: Salesforce 1 Signals Support For Digital Business at #DF13

Research Summary And Speaker Notes: The Identity Manifesto – Why Identity Is At The Heart of Digital Business


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Although we work closely with many mega software vendors, we want you to trust us. For the full disclosure policy,stay tuned for the full client list on the Constellation Research website.

* Not responsible for any factual errors or omissions.  However, happy to correct any errors upon email receipt.

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The post Monday’s Musings: Dealing With The Startup Who Went Public And Is Now Arrogant As Hell appeared first on A Software Insider's Point of View.

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