Engaging Design Customers

By Yohai Shaked

10.6.2013 twitter linkedin facebook

When working for an enterprise software startup company that develops a complex breakthrough infrastructure technology, finding design customers is not easy. On the one hand, the technology promises outstanding benefits in performance, cost and above all flexibility and ease of use. On the other, because the technology is so innovative and different, it arouses curiosity in people who are early adopters and risk-takers by their nature, but those same people are hesitant to commit.
That is what we’re up against with at SQream Technologies. For the last two and a half years we have been developing a highly complex analytic database technology that is based on Graphic Processing Units (GPU). We exploit the hundreds and thousands of processing cores available with a GPU to load, compress/decompress and store data, and execute SQL queries on it. The results are outstanding in terms of execution performance, savings of storage, flexibility and ease of use.
Clearly, an innovative technology that serves at the infrastructure level of the organization must be thoroughly evaluated and tested before it is adopted. However, for the newcomer software startup this is a chicken-and-a-egg situation… A potential design customer tends to begin the relationships with a relatively small and simple challenge (the “POC” – Proof of Concept), but he must consider in advance the bigger picture and the implications resulting from the challenge success. This is the dilemma each and every potential design customer faces and only a few are willing to walk the long way, challenge the common wisdom and take the risks involved, in the hope that eventually they will reap the amazing benefits promised by the technology.
For a software startup this is a long, painful and bleeding road. When you start, you may need to generate, engage and meet with up to one hundred leads before you identify and engage your first design customer. Of course it gets easier as you walk the road, since you can hopefully use your already engaged partners as references, and in parallel your product has matured and became more robust through the POCs. Yet, the road is still quite agonizing… By the time you reach your first public release of the technology (now a “product”) and charge customers for it, you must have generated and engaged many more leads. And hopefully while walking the road, you may have been able to convert some of your engaged design partners into a paying customer – the Holy Grail!
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