Finding early customers is one of the biggest head-aches for new businesses: mentors, introducers, agencies and ‘chaperones’ are among possible answers
For early-stage businesses, Buyers are often very difficult to get to, especially with evolving products and in more competitive markets. French company Wabel enables buyers and private label sources to find one another; and sets up meetings to enable SMEs with new products to meet high-level buyers from throughout Europe. UKTI plays a similar role for new exporters; and is able to high-light for new businesses overseas markets that may be easier to enter than corresponding UK markets. And Dreamstake, a free website for aspiring entrepreneurs, enables its registered members to publish their needs for help on LinkedIn and Twitter eg for contacts and mentors who might be able to help in the same way.
The recent Fintech Lab Accelerator in London offered another alternative for those with new products: it provided 13 weeks of support for seven SMEs to help them to introduce their products to a dozen big banks (notorious for their labyrinths of buyers) – each bank providing a chaperone for each of the SMEs to help them find their way around their bank.
The main function of the army of ‘mentors’ attached to Accelerators (notably Seedcamp, Springboard, Bethnal Green Ventures, and The Young Foundation) is to provide connections to experts, and in particular to potential customers – for the products and services of the new businesses in the Accelerator. They are able to open doors to which mailings and phone calls remain obstinately locked.
Disruptive products are increasingly common, but they often need this kind of help in order to effect successful introductions to markets.