During that time, I’ve had a variety of conversations from the future of agency and client interactions through to the needs of start up and early stage companies. And it’s the latter that I have found the most interesting, because the conversation hasn’t just been about PR, but about what start ups need from the wider business community.
Let me explain. There are a lot of larger companies looking to help and partner with start up and early stage companies through great new initiatives that give them the opportunity to showcase their wares. Clearly this isn’t an altruistic move; the benefit for the big boys is that they get to try and add a little bit of ‘start up’ sparkle to their own organisation. Moreover, this new wave of businesses represents their potential customers of the future too. The elders of tech need to understand how their services will be consumed in years to come and shape their businesses accordingly.
So, they get involved throwing a lot of money and energy in the direction of Silicon Roundabout. From Hackathons through to mentoring schemes and more. Clearly these initiatives are a ‘good thing’ and in no way is this blog aimed at criticising these efforts. Certainly the start ups I have spoken with view them favourably, describing them as networking opportunities with the potential for column inches and social media interaction that can put their company in front of new audiences.
This is all well and good, but do these schemes overlook a key factor – that start ups aren’t there for a beauty parade? They are businesses too. Of these grand initiatives, how many result in start ups actually growing their business? Publicity is great, a shout out on Twitter from a key influencer even better, but what about leads? Actual sales leads? The opportunity for start ups to benefit not from the technology the sponsor has to offer them, but the opportunity to pitch to a division within the business and possibly win a contract?
Networking and mentoring – what most of these events and programmes see as a key benefit for participation – are all wonderful things that could lead to something bigger, but how often does this actually happen? Larger companies need to be more focused in how they engage start ups and be prepared to not just throw marketing budget at them, but give due thought and consideration as to what tangible sales leads and commercial growth opportunities they can engage them in.