What do innovators really need?
Let’s assume you’re the founder of an innovative start-up—and you believe you have a really strong value proposition to offer a Fortune 500 corporation.
How do you get a meeting with the right people, give them the right pitch, navigate their Byzantine internal decision-making structure, negotiate the best possible terms, close the deal, and walk away with enough cash to make your next funding milestone?
You probably don’t. Especially if your starting point is the security guard in the lobby or the friend of the cousin who used to date your Director of Marketing’s former college roommate.
Now imagine instead that you’ve been granted access to a business development team with deep industry experience and expertise that can get your meetings and successfully guide you through the rest of the sales cycle.
How much would that be worth to you?
Cash and cultivation
When most people read the question in the headline of this blog, they almost invariably think “capital.” And there’s some truth to that. New, innovative ventures require capital to launch and to scale.
But the point of innovation isn’t merely to attract capital. It’s to deliver value for real customers by solving real-world business problems in a competitively differentiated way.
To do that successfully, innovators need more than just capital. They need a smart business development plan specifically tailored to support their route-to-market. They need the vertical market expertise necessary to speak to the business objectives and pain-points of their target customers. And they need a broad network of industry relationships so they don’t get stuck making a lot of dead-end cold calls.
That’s the kind of business development that National Grid Partners (NGP) delivers to innovation leaders. We’re not just investors. We’re cultivators.
Fostering pivotal early-stage relationships
As alluded to above, one important way we support the innovators we take under our wing is by introducing them to potential customers. This is obviously a tremendous advantage for new companies, which 1) need to quickly acquire marquee customers for both revenue and market credibility and 2) often struggle to get in the door and find the right person in such marquee customers’ large organizations.
But we do more than just make introductions. We shepherd our innovation partners through the entire sales cycle—which, as you probably know, can be fraught with complexity and pitfalls.
Partnership through the sales cycle doesn’t just mitigate the risk of failure to close. It can also help time-compress the cycle, which is also incredibly important to young, cash-hungry companies. With the right business partners by your side during the sales cycle, you’re also more likely to spot additional opportunities and take away high-value learnings that will help you not only make a sale—but also sustain a more profitable long-term relationship.
The customer-partner engagement
I should also point out that in addition to helping innovators find other customers, it can also benefit them tremendously to have National Grid itself as a customer ready, willing, and able to act as a development partner as well.
Under this customer-partner model, National Grid can help innovators refine their solution under live production conditions, to optimize pricing and deal structure parameters, to uncover issues with post-sales support, and much more.
There are also opportunities in these kinds of collaborations for National Grid to add value to a startup by licensing some of our own IP, data, or expertise. In one recent engagement, National Grid and NGP portfolio company ClimaCell agreed to evaluate each other’s technology for potential development of a new transmission line rating product.
Smart money bundled with impactful business development programs, collaboration, and the “power of partnership” is much more potent than capital alone. National Grid is committed to innovation—and I’d be delighted to hear from any of you who’d like to join us in that mission.
Kareem Fahmy is Vice President of Business Develpment at National Grid Partners.