Yalim's Lodge

Entrio and The Low Hanging Fruit

Entrio provides an event management platform with mobile tickets for organizers of small scale events.

Online, mobile ticket sales seems like a popular business area for startups these days. Recently, I ended up using two different startups myself, one to register for the Seedcamp event and one to buy a ticket for the wine tasting trip that came afterwards. This is actually good for Entrio. It is further proof that validates their idea.

During the session two concerns were raised from our mentor group.

One was that Entrio seems to require the customers own a smart phone. If you don’t have a smart phone, you cannot buy a ticket from Entrio. This seems rather restrictive. While we were talking with Sam (@LoisaidaSam ) at the party, who was also mentoring during the day, he mentioned that his friends have a similar startup but they were letting people print the tickets if they want to. I think this seems like something Entrio should look into and validate with the event organizers. Danijel, who was mentoring with me in the same group, thought lowering the barrier and enabling purchases from regular cell phones using text messages might help, since smart phone adoption is not that high in Croatia the country where Entrio is from. This is another idea worth validating.

The Entrio team was also indecisive whether they should focus on expanding to other European countries or focus on local events first. When I asked them how many events Entrio has done in Croatia, I think their answer was 1.

This is a soft spot of all entrepreneurs. We all want world domination. However, world domination starts with local domination. You can’t be international without being national. I advised Entrio to focus on their local market first. This advise is probably true for most startups.

Low Hanging Fruit

Actually, let me rephrase that…I strongly recommend you to go for the low hanging fruit first. If it is easier for you to find a customer in outer space you should start from outer space. However, for startups it is almost always easier to find a customer locally then internationally. Despite the Internet, the hype of globalism and world getting smaller every day, proximity still plays a big role in making sales even for big businesses. Every international software company has a local office in the countries they do business with. For startups, local focus is much more important.

Remember, as a startup you are in search of a business model, part of which is a repeatable sales process. Until you create a repeatable sales process (Steve Blank’s book everyone :-) ) that will assist you closing a sale with a customer 5000 miles away, the experiments are easier and cheaper to execute locally than internationally. Are there exceptions? Of course. But they are what they are…Exceptions.

Case In Point

My company, which is a startup by the way, sells a web application development framework for Oracle PL/SQL programmers (www.theformspider.com). So our potential customers are enterprises or ISV’s who provide software to enterprises. Initially, we had the same inspirations for world domination. :-) . However, the reality hit us hard and quickly. Walking local leads through the funnel was so much easier. We can arrange meetings easier. We can pick up the phone and talk to them anytime during the business hours. We can hold a real workshop with real people in the office.

I recently gave a presentation to software developers in Los Angeles. At this stage of our company and framework, this was a fabulous waste of time. It hit me after my first day in L.A. There was no way for me to have any face to face meetings with the potential customers I may meet in my presentation. I was going back home in a few days. The flight between Istanbul and L.A. is 13 hours. Just the plane ticket alone costs about $3K. Heck even arranging a phone call will be challenging. There is a ten hour time difference between the two cities. When they start their business we leave the office. When they go to bed we start our business. Let’s not kid ourselves…As a startup, that sells a software framework to enterprises, there is no way we can close a sale by exchanging emails.

However, this whole sales process is so much smoother in Istanbul. Let me go over it with you to show you what it takes to close a sale for us. The process might not be exactly the same for you but it will be similar.

We make the first contact where we quickly introduce ourselves in 25 words or less. Next, we send an email to request a meeting. Then we go visit the potential customer in their office. We do our pitch and present our value proposition to the decision makers and influencers. We invite them to a workshop so that they can experience our product hands on. We do the workshop in our office. Then we meet again at their office and they ask us to develop a proof of concept (POC). Developing the proof of concept may require phone calls, setup and email exchanges. Then we deliver the POC. They evaluate the POC. Then we meet again and they provide feedback on the POC and we answer any questions they might have. If all goes well, it is time for a small project where they actually pay us money. Wait…it is not over yet. We go back to the office. We write a project plan which includes the training of their developers. We submit our proposal. They evaluate the proposal. There are phone calls and email exchanges. Then there is the meeting where we get the actual PO. This is where the actual work starts which only means more interaction with the customer.

Now look at these steps above. In a nutshell, this is our sales road map. As a startup, be it B2B or B2C, you are going to go through a similar sales process with your customers. I don’t know what it is. Actually, no one does. Your first task is to find it out. Two months ago I could not write the paragraph above. I had no idea. Do you think it is easier to create these steps with potential customers locally or 5000 miles away?

I will tell you what will happen with your international customers. You will get two emails and then it will stop. This is not a sales road map. This is recipe for disappointment.

Work in your local market. Learn from your errors. Iterate. Create a perfect, scalable, repeatable sales model.

Go for the low hanging fruit.

Yalım K. Gerger @yalimgerger