Stay ahead – join The Drum+

Three benefits to agencies from learning to move as fast as startups

Rose Lewis

For the first few months, startups are focused on one thing: gaining as much product and market validation as quickly as possible. That means persuading potential customers to buy and trial their products today.

Without this, they don’t have a business. Iterating fast and getting in front of potential customers even faster is a must. Those potential customers are you – brand and agency types.

I know how busy you are. Those briefs piling up, your overflowing inbox, that afternoon strategy meeting... The startup you saw last week probably isn’t your first priority. But dragging them along in a string of unanswered emails is useless for both you and them. So, here are three tips to help you keep up with the startup pace.

Create a ‘painkiller’

We encourage our startups to tackle big problems brands and agencies face. You can do that by helping the founders understand your number one problem that must be solved today. In the startup world, these are often referred to as 'painkillers' – something that will solve a real pain point and you must act now, whatever the cost (within reason).

Many startups focus on smaller problems with interesting features. We call them ‘vitamins’ – nice to have but if you use them today, it’s not going to matter as much. Talk to the startup and help them understand your priorities. Help them shape their product to become a painkiller, rather than just a vitamin.

Set expectations

By explaining your key priorities, budget constraints, and sign-off process early on in conversations, the startup will fully understand how things will play out. From day one, you’ll be putting your realistic expectations on the table. Without doing this, both parties will become aggravated because they’re stuck waiting for the other party to come to a decision. Further, you need to help them understand what will make them your number one priority.

Help them pivot

Work with the startup to see how their product can fix your problems – and that might mean pivoting.

One of the Collider startups did just this. They initially entered the programme as a social aggregator platform. After a few brand meetings, the brands suggested the technology could be used for a much larger problem – internal communications. And when the startup shifted their market focus, brands began moving quickly to use their technology. They were able to quickly attract a trial customer which helped them validate the technology, as well as the revised value to brands. They now have over a dozen blue chip brands working with them and are expecting more to sign up this year.

So set create a painkiller rather than a vitamin, highlight your priorities and constraints, and help the startups pivot. You’d be surprised how quickly you can begin to move as fast as a startup by actively engaging with them. And by adapting new tech, you’ll learn how to work like a startup, in the long run leaving you more time to get on with the 101 other things on your plate.

Rose Lewis is founder of the startup accelerator Collider

By continuing to use The Drum, I accept the use of cookies as per The Drum's privacy policy