In 2002, Maurice, Guillaume and myself co-founded Brixlogic, a software development platform for Web Services. Much like today, it felt like the worst possible timing to start a company, right after the internet bubble had burst. We had designed our platform to handle any kind of server-to-server communication using XML. There was a huge potential market, but we didn’t have any focus. We weren’t sure where to look for customers either. In other words, we had a lot of questions and not enough answers.
Very quickly we realized the issue wasn’t just the timing; the real issue was that it was going to be very difficult to sell this all-purpose platform, especially if we insisted on staying within the confines of Silicon Valley. We decided to implement Lesson101 of Silicon Valley: focus on one niche market. We chose a very narrow segment: IFX, a new banking protocol used for ATM banking transactions. We built a dedicated solution for that niche. All of a sudden, our market shrank like crazy!
But soon we started to enjoy “traction”, another Silicon Valley buzzword. My office wall started to fill with frames of purchase order after purchase order. Finally! Less than one year after our strategy pivot, we could legitimately claim to be the leader of the IFX platform market. It was magical and it felt great!
Our company was in Silicon Valley, but wait a minute– where were our customers from? One was in Ohio, another in Puerto Rico, and yet another in India…. You get the picture, not a single one was in Silicon Valley. We could have been based out of Kansas City or Paris, it didn’t matter much. We found most of our customers at trade shows or on the phone. In 4 years at Brixlogic, I think I visited a customer site only three times.
Not too long ago, I was CEO of the French Tech Hub, an accelerator for French startups. I met a zillion French entrepreneurs. The questions I heard the most: where should I be based out of in the US? Should I settle in on the East Coast or on the West Coast? My experience told me these were the wrong questions. The better question was: what should my market focus be? Once you know the segment you are focused on you can build the appropriate marketing and sales strategy to meet your customers where they are. And most of the time, you will find and reach your customer base via two principal channels: online or at tradeshows.
Having a point of presence in Silicon Valley could be very helpful especially if you want to develop partnerships with tech companies (that could be another blog post), just like having a presence in Boston could be crucial if you are in biotech. But my point is that, in many cases, you can be anywhere to sell in the US. I can be in Mountain View, CA or at my place in Chamonix. I can develop the appropriate marketing, fill my schedule with prospects, send proposals, negotiate contracts and close deals from anywhere. The only issue with being in Chamonix is that I will have temptations other than work– a little cheese-hunting or skiing, anyone?
Brixlogic was way before the digital revolution and the ability to set-up Zoom calls. Remember how I said it felt like the worst possible timing to start a company, right after the internet bubble burst? Maybe you think confinement, which will limit our travel possibilities for some time, also feels like a bad time to launch your company. But now, with online communication so easily accessible, I say, it’s time to do business in the digital age.
So, fellow entrepreneurs, instead of fretting about location, let’s remember the most important question: what should your market focus be?
If you want to discuss that with me contact us!