Note: This is Part I in the Startup Advantages series. Startups have few advantages. One of the most significant is the ability to keep your cards close to your vest. A major disadvantage of a public Big Dumb Company (BDC), as well as one that works closely with governmental agencies, is the degree to which they are forced to publicly disclose otherwise confidential information.
Note: This is part III of a four part series. Access part I HERE, part II HERE and part IV HERE. As noted in parts I and II of this series, agreements with Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) can be alluring and potentially fatal. In many cases, agreements contain the promise of future riches, much like a piece of cheese in a mousetrap. This series describes how entrepreneurs can craft company-changing agreements with BDCs, while avoiding Kiss of Death contract provisions.
Note: This is part II of a four part series. Access part I HERE, part III HERE, and part IV HERE. As noted in part I of this series, agreements with Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) can be alluring and potentially fatal. In many cases, agreements crafted by BDC lawyers resemble ConTraps rather than mutually beneficial contracts. This series describes how entrepreneurs can craft company-changing agreements with BDCs, while avoiding Kiss of Death contract provisions.
“Good Lord Boyet, my beauty, though but mean, Needs not the painted flourish of your praise: Beauty is bought by judgment of the eye, Not uttered by base sale of chapmen's tongues” William Shakespeare, British Playwright, from Love's Labour’s Lost, 1598 Intellectual Property (IP) is an ugly thing at a startup. It requires you to expend your two most valuable resources, your time and your money. Yet, it does nothing to help you execute your business model. However, to a Big Dumb Company (BDC), a startup’s IP is a thing of beauty. Although BDCs often act irrationally, in this instance, their perception of beauty is highly rational.
“The emperor holds a stick in his hands, both ends parallel to the horizon, while the candidates advancing, one by one, sometimes leap over the stick, sometimes creep under it, backward and forward, several times, according as the stick is advanced or depressed. Whoever performs his part with most agility, and holds out the longest in leaping and creeping, is rewarded with the blue-coloured silk… and you see few great persons about this court who are not adorned with one of these girdles.” Jonathan Swift – Gulliver’s Travels Jonathan Swift was satirizing the manner in which court appointments were made in 18th-century England. However, his description could be aptly applied to the process by which some Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) and even Bigger Dumber Government agencies (BDGs) execute their procurement decisions.
In his book, The Map of Innovation, DoubleClick Co-founder Kevin O’Connor emphasizes the importance of describing your adVenture in clear and concise terms. When discussing his book, Mr. O’Connor often gives the audience a quiz similar to that shown below. Select the description below that describes an actual software product. A. Assimilated, zero-administration, standard database-queuing schema B. Open-architected, workforce-neutral, productivity assimilator C. Modularly reduced Graphical User Interface heuristic D. Profit-focused, fault-tolerant encoding interface If you can select the legitimate product from the list above, you are well on your way to buzz-cutting through the forest of buzzword BS.
Who is this character? Hint: It is not a mouse. The fact that you likely cannot name this creature confirms the reality that ideas are cheap. All too often, inexperienced entrepreneurs struggle with sharing their ideas with potential investors, Donors and others who might be in a position to help them. The next time you wonder if it is safe to share your ideas, recall the fate of this long-eared, anonymous cartoon character.
Agreements with Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) are like DC Comic’s evil villainess, Poison Ivy. Both are seductive and alluring and both are potentially fatal. As a startup, your most meaningful agreements will likely be struck with BDCs. You will no doubt craft agreements with companies of similar or even smaller size compared to your own, but the risk associated with such agreements will be tempered by the fact that you will negotiate such agreements as a relative peer. As such, your greatest risk and greatest opportunity will arise from the deals you cut with larger entities. Fortunately, it is possible to craft lucrative deals with BDCs that do not limit your adVenture’s ability to charter its own destiny. Just as Batman must avoid Poison Ivy’s kiss of death, so too must entrepreneurs avoid the Kiss of Death provisions which BDCs often attempt to include in their agreements.
After patiently listening to a messenger deliver the Persian King Xerxes’s request for Sparta’s capitulation, the Spartan King Leonidas unceremoniously kicked the messenger down a well. Anger at receiving bad news is a natural human reaction. Sophocles, Shakespeare and the Bible all reference the killing of the bearer of bad news. When someone is critical of your adVenture, it is natural to dismiss the detractor and even demonize them to undercut the validity of their message. Fortunately for your competitors and detractors, you do not have a license to kill. However, as an entrepreneur, you do have a license to thrill. Every successful entrepreneur must eventually learn to delegate. An even more challenging skill is learning what to delegate. As noted in PR Passion, shaping your adVenture’s messaging is not something you should leave to others. Control your messaging by crafting it yourself and exciting your messengers to the point that they willingly deliver your company’s message on your behalf. Energize your messengers and encourage them to tell your story in a spirited, fervent and accurate manner.
Marketers have long known that people are drawn to exclusivity. Some people pay small fortunes to attend exclusive, private colleges while others wait in line for hours for the opportunity to buy exorbitantly priced drinks in an exclusive nightclub. As noted in Kiss Of Death, exclusivity can kill a small company. Unfortunately, many Big Dumb Companies (BDCs) believe that the only way they can effectively compete is to skew the market in their favor by precluding you from freely working with anyone you choose. Exclusivity excludes the BDC from competing in the free market while excluding the startup from taking full advantage of future customer, partner and market opportunities. Such deals are not exclusive, they are excludesive.