Why Big Companies Buy From Startups — And How to Sell to Them

Why Big Companies Buy From Startups — And How to Sell to Them

It’s a rare achievement when a lowly startup manages to persuade a Fortune 500 company to buy its product — big company managers tend to avoid unnecessary risk, and they worry if they think the company they’re buying from won’t outlast the products it sells.

But they also worry about falling behind their competitors, according to three top managers who spoke at the DEMO conference in Silicon Valley (Santa Clara) Tuesday, and that forces them to look hard for new technologies that can help them stay ahead.

[login]All three managers — Ralph Loura, the CIO of Clorox; John Murray, the CIO of Genworth Financial Wealth Management; and Sheldon Wang, the CTO of eHealth — said their companies make special efforts to stay on top of new information technology trends.

Had AT&T been looking at Skype, Murray pointed out, it might not have lost part of the international calling market. “We stay on top of our direct competition, but you don’t see enabling technology coming out of left field,” he said.

So Clorox has created a new job called solution designer — a role that stands between Clorox’s IT department and its domain architects — and assigned five people to look for new technology and think about how it might fit into Clorox. Genworth tries to hire senior managers who like technology and are early adopters themselves. eHealth directs everybody in the organization to look for new technology.

Here are some do’s and don’ts from the executives on how your startup should try to sell them new technology:


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