Competing with the tech giants of todays economy is a daunting prospect for many startups. Source: Shutterstock

Small startups don’t have to live in the shadow of giants, and here’s why

GOOGLE, Microsoft, Alibaba, TCS, Oracle, Samsung – just to name but a few of the tech giants that continue to grow year after year, generating billions of dollars in revenue and accumulating a vast client-base.

So what must a startup do in order to stand out in an already booming industry? And with an already over-saturated ecosystem of startups, is it all doom and gloom?

Not according to Blue Wireless founder and CEO, Ivan Landen.

Alibaba is one of the major technology firms dominating the market today. Source: Reuters

In late 2015, Landen embarked on a journey to build the first wireless network service provider in Singapore to enable enterprises to take advantage of wireless LTE technology for their business WAN connectivity.

From this, the company has grown in leaps and bounds. In the last two years, Landen has won contracts with many enterprise clients – predominantly engineering and construction firms – and has connected over 400 locations across Asia Pacific for his clients.

For fledgling startups looking to survive in a space dominated by industry juggernauts, Landen offers five pieces of advice.

Choose a highly-targeted business proposition

“As a startup, you have a shortage of everything- money, staff and especially time,” he said in a statement to Tech Wire Asia.

According to Landen, it is essential that as a startup you excel in the one thing that defines your business.

“Early on at Blue Wireless, we made a deliberate choice to focus on a specific ‘niche’ – LTE Internet access for enterprises across Asia Pacific”.

During Blue Wireless’ earlier days, the company made decisions to turn down many requests to offer additional services such as private networks and security services.

According to Landen, the choice to turn down 90 percent of those requests was crucial in order to survive In the business.

“If you are a Jack of all trades, you will end up a master of none,” he said.

“So whatever business you are in, my advice is to focus on a very specific product/market combination so that you can create specific value for your customers and face the large incumbents who often have generic offerings trying to please everyone.”

Build an ironclad reputation

According to Landen, reputation is the single most important thing in the B2B industry. With regards to the telco industry, he commented that many of the existing incumbents don’t have a very good reputation to start with, being seen as “too slow” and “bureaucratic” for modern business needs.

The CEO maintained that as an entrant, your reputation can only be earned from completed work, and not just proposed plans.

Bring completed projects rather than just proposed plans when you’re just breaking into a scene. Source: Shutterstock

“One way is to borrow the reputation from the founders or the early staff and the work they had accomplished in previous jobs. In our case, me and my co-founder have [more than 20] years’ experience in the Telco industry, so that gives a good foundation,” said Landen.

One way of proving yourself to clients and other companies, according to Landen, is to complete many proofs of concepts.

“So that you can show your clients that your product or service is strong, go out on a limb to actually initiate getting the services up and running – even if there is no initial payment.”

When talking about his own experience, he said:

“This resulted in customers seeing the results, and helped to confirm our reputation. Seeing is believing. From there, the word-of-mouth and referrals started. Today, we get 50 percent of our new business from referrals and growth of accounts”.

Make sure your brand and message match your audience

Ensuring that your brand message is focused on the specific product or market combination is another piece of advice from Landen.

“Blue Wireless came with a relatively new concept (wireless instead of fibre) to a relatively conservative audience (enterprises who have high expectations for business continuity),” he explained.

“So we had to adapt our messaging around this, continually emphasize reliability, make service tangible, all the wording and messaging we knew would appeal to our audience”.

The CEO also adds that tech companies should avoid branding themselves with overly “techy names”. He argues that this jargon is not recognizable to the B2B market and does not instill confidence in them, and could in turn affect your long term prospects.

Your flexibility is your most powerful weapon

Agility, speed and flexibility are your main differentiators against your competitors, said Landen.

“Use that flexibility, for instance, in how you do your marketing campaigns. While your budget is small, you can create a campaign in a day, while incumbents often need committees and many weeks to get approvals.”

Blue Wireless took advantage of several fiber Internet outages that occurred in Singapore last year in order to boost their business.

“Within a few hours we started increasing our social media ads to show how our wireless internet offers an alternative to their service, resulting in new orders within the day,” says Landen.

Marketing = Focus x Repetition

Source: Shuttershock

According to Landen, startups should avoid worrying about the “small stuff” when creating content, ads, copy, or the perfect visuals- “especially on social media, the average lifespan is a few hours, 2 days at best.”

The key to marketing, according to Landen, is “focus and repetition”.

“Have a singular message and brand and keep repeating it everywhere you can, and as often as you can, until you’re sick and tired of it – but people will remember what you stand for.”

Whilst large organizations need to be extremely careful regarding their reputations and compliance, Landen said that as a startup, you can afford some glitches here and there, as long as you keep communicating 24/7.