It's a very hard thing to generalise about. Because it depends a lot on the solution that you're bringing to market and the nature of that. If there's, for example, an open source or tools element to that, then you would look at which developers are adopting it and using it, and use that as a way of navigating customer opportunity and so on.
But some things, for example, a lot of machine learning applications in an area, like finance, tend to be something that needs to be done at an enterprise level. Because you kind of need to be part of the credit function, or the risk function, or whatever that thing is. So you've got to go in there and convince that audience of people to adopt or to trial your solution.
There are lots of ways to... I just talk generally about that, and then pick me up and see if there's anything you want to sort of double click on... there are lots of ways that you can short circuit that.
Lots of big enterprises have sort of innovation groups these days, they are without question a two edged sword. What they're looking for is flutter, they're looking for small young companies that they can put on their own little internal demo days and make them look good in front of bosses. You're never going to get a lot of revenue out of an Innovation group, because they don't control the budgets inside of the corporation.
When you start to look for [you] first big contract, you're not gonna get it from an innovation group, by and large. But you'll get some exposure to the corporate world, you might get some good introductions, you'll get a better understanding about how the company works. And maybe you'll get some pilot projects, or something like that.
Lots of accelerators. You have sort of famous sort of really deeply technical ones like EF [Entrepreneur First], and of course, there are lots now that Seraphim on the space side, of CyLon on the [cyber] security... Lots of enterprises have their own accelerators, as well. Lots of consulting firms have accelerators.
And those things can be useful, because what you're basically doing is trusting someone to be a broker of relationships for you, to help you make sensible introductions and to engage with the right kind of people who can be decision making. So there are ways that you can shortcut those kinds of processes.
But one of the things I always think for an enterprise sales as a way of qualification is, you know, unless somebody is prepared to commit something to you, it isn't that important. So, either that a lot of time access to production data. You're probably at the stage that we're talking about your most important metric, believe it or not, is probably not revenue. Your most important metric is customer discovery and sort of future indicators of where that revenue could be coming from.
No one is going to fund you at a series A stage because you've got, you know, whatever million pounds worth of revenue versus 600,000 pounds worth of revenue, despite what people tell you, that's just not the case. People want to see what the future... people are always looking at the futures. People are always thinking - 'Okay, I'm investing at this point. What's this business going to look like five years from now? And then two years from here? What do you look five years from now?'. So that's what they're looking at. and revenue is a lagging indicator.
You know, businesses need to commit something to you. Maybe it's pilot revenue, maybe it's something like that, that is actually financial. But it could also be that they're giving you access to production data. It can also be that they're letting you into their data centre, so that you can trail something out. It can also be that they're spending a lot of quality time helping you improve and feedback the product.
One of the ways that can help to qualify people is by the quality of commitment that they have given back to you. And I think that the customer journey is one whereby, at the beginning, as long as you've got, you know, the first two or three qualifying lenses on the prospect, so you know, I'm in whatever it is, let's say it's financial services, and I'm talking to someone that's in the middle office, and I'm talking to someone that actually procure software - so I've got my first sort of three high level lenses on it.
Almost every one of those meetings at the beginning is going to be interesting, because you'll find something out, you'll get an anecdote, it'll help you clarify what not to do. Because the question is a founder that you're always asking is - 'can my product do that? Should my product do that? If we were to change the product to do that, what would we lose, and what would we gain?'.
So you're going constantly making this trade off. And that, by the way, is why you always have to be doing ourselves. You can't outsource sales, because a sales person is always thinking - 'How do I sell something here? How do I sell something here?'. They don't care about this kind of pipeline of product discovery. They'll do whatever they need to do to get a sale, and they'll end up sending [a message] something that isn't coherent with what you're trying to build as a company.
I think that a founder [should be] having those meetings, and gradually, you'll get more and more clarity around what a good customer looks like, and what the buying signals are, and what the pain points are that will that will take you into business.
Another question that you asked is about the size of enterprise. And that's something that we care about a lot. Big enterprises are big beasts. And there's a famous blog that I think I forget who wrote it... But it's basically... elephants, deers, and rabbits. It basically goes through and basically says - for a startup to go after elephants to go big elephants, if you can do it, it's fantastic. Because they're huge, and you can live off an elephant for years. The problem with rabbits, is they often too small to be very interesting. You don't get through along, you need to find many more. And the cost of getting rabbits can be quite high.
So what you end up on as a startup is often something in the middle, something that's substantial enough - deer - to live on for a while. But it's also something that maybe doesn't have 19 levels of decision making. It won't take two years, you don't get to this point, and then discover you've got to go through procurement, all those kinds of things.
I think that enterprises, when you're in that customer discovery part of the journey, it's okay to talk to enterprises, because you will find out an awful lot. But what you may find is that as you have to narrow your use case and your proposition to something that is very clear, and that you can deliver convincingly and differentiated, that you narrow your prospect list and will probably end up looking at [something that] much more like a deer, than a giant enterprise.