NASDAQ-listed Freshworks has a reputation of being a super friendly partner for startups and small-sized enterprise businesses. The reason behind it is the comprehensive Startup Program Freshworks has for newly found early-stage startups.
The program comes with
In addition, there is the popular Orbit Shift Podcast that outlines learnings and playbooks of successful startup founders and their growth trajectories. The podcast is designed such that it arrives as immediate value to the founders that sign up for this program.
Now any typical early-stage business doesn’t make any sizable revenues. If 10 such startups are actively looking to enter the market, they may not have much money to spend on various tools to kickstart their activation. Freshworks gives them that. On the other hand, 10 new businesses that have just started up might need the right resources, mentorship, network, and growth-based learnings.
This intersection is where a Startup Program can be a viable, reliable, and long-term activity that is mutually beneficial both to your own business and the spectrum of early-stage businesses looking to launch.
And it’s not just Freshworks that’s using this strategy. We have seen scores of Startup Programs by large-sized enterprise businesses such as Freshworks, Chargebee, AWS, Microsoft, CleverTap, WebEngage among many others.
But how can you go about building an effective Startup Program to include it as a part of the larger GTM strategy? How can this program add real value to early-stage founders?
Here are some guidelines for the same.
At the outset, it is always imperative to package the offerings of your startup program in a way that it comes off as a no-brainer for the early-stage founders to sign up. Your objective should be to make the program beneficial for the startups rather than merely getting conversions in sales.
For example, assume that this package would otherwise cost $1000 in a straightforward plan but it is offered at a discounted price of $800 exclusively in the startup program. It is still a cost of $800. The value created for an early-stage business that is yet to make any revenues would be almost nil but rather it puts the startup back by $800. The only way to optimize for this is to package it in a way that it becomes a breeze for the founders.
While giving away freebies might seem like a great marketing activity at its core, the real objective is different. The founders would want to know that there is a real value generated out of the program than just a marketing activity for the sake of it.
“For a startup program, the core value in itself should be to give back to the community and add more and more value to a business that might not immediately be able to pay you back in any way.”
Don’t Make it Transactional: It is never a good idea to make it look transactional, which it naturally will if the real objective is at all centered around generating quick leads out of this program. It is highly recommended that this be avoided.
Communicate The Purpose: To build a holistic program such as this one for early-stage startups, useful and insightful content, a powerful community coupled with supporting networks can be great additions to the offering. The founders should also be able to see the ‘Why’ behind the startup program, its relevance, how the credits are rolled out, and how they can be of value.
I love how Chargebee puts the purpose of designing a startup program and advantages of using Chargebee in a single fold of their landing page.
Some Examples to consider:
a) Freshworks for Startups
b) Chargebee For Startups
c) Stripe Atlas
d) Segment for Startups
The Startup Program in itself is a great way to go to the market and build your presence. But it is wiser to build and customize the program in stealth mode with a select set of partners initially, to be able to gather enough feedback and further strengthen the package of offerings.
These initial partners may become your program’s evangelists eventually. But only with the feedback they gave you, you can go aggressive and break out of the stealth mode.
“There should always be enough proof for the value that your program has created in the first place, which goes on to only amplify as you take the program public for the larger audience.”
Misconception: Many teams fall into the misconception that the program always takes off soon after the launch but it rarely happens. The program needs its own time to be in the attention of a significant number of founders, and there would need to be some word-of-mouth talking as to how your program is generating tangible value to those who are a part of it.
How to Launch: Ideally, the launch activity in itself should be carried out over a period of a month or two. This includes a range of webinars, live sessions, blogs, podcasts, or any kind of content that brings about a decent brand recall that a program like this one exists.
Remember that these are early-stage startup founders who are talking to customers, raising funds, hiring, dousing fires. Plus they are doing all other functions like sales, marketing and sometimes going back to the whiteboard. It is only natural that they might not have enough time or bandwidth to have a comprehensive chat with you regarding the program and how exactly it is of benefit to him/her.
Besides, most of them are also first-time founders who might not entirely know or understand the real use-cases of some or most of your perks and offerings.
Any network of startup founders, by default, is a high-density network of individuals. They find it extremely easy to talk to each other and founders always know more founders. By its own definition, a founder-filled network has its own version of network effects on a very intrinsic level.
One way to leverage this is to roll out a referral program and onboard more founders onto your program with significant incentives tagged along. If a founder already has access to $10,000 of your credits, he would love to have $5,000 more as an addendum to his own credits once and if he successfully refers 5 more startups to your program.
Another additional leverage is by tapping into the highly-dense venture capital communities in the ecosystem. Every startup has one senior executive who is the go-to point of contact with their own investors and venture funds, which in turn can give you access to a massive number of other startups in the community.
Most VCs would be happy to do the evangelism for you and help spread the word.
Example: Chargebee & Freshworks from India
Platform Engine: The startup program should be a platform where it can unlock the supply of new partners, experts. The platform approach makes it open to collaboration.
Freshworks Partner Network:
Chargebee Startup Program as a Platform
Content Engine: Choose one form of content and deliver great content to attract the top of the funnel. It can be a newsletter, podcast, or a long/short blog or videos. The more unique the format, the higher the value.
Freshworks Podcast Strategy
Chargebee Startup Resources as Content Strategy
Community Engine: Choose one type of member and a common purpose. Bring them together often to help them achieve their outcomes. The purpose can be closer to your product offering but not compulsory.
Community Initiatives by Freshworks & Chargebee to add value to founders through their startup programs
At Accel, we are open to partnering with an exclusive set of startups and helping offer your Startup Program to our portfolio and those enlisted with our Atoms Program.
Sign up here and we will reach out to you very soon!