Pivot Story: How One BridgeCommunity Startup Found a Bigger Problem to Solve

A startup in our current cohort is pivoting after a big opportunity revealed itself during a discussion with The Weather Company, a BridgeCommunity corporate member.

Convergent’s initial focus on rapid application prototyping in the cloud created a lot of initial interest from business leadership and first meetings, but tended to stall when IT people were brought in. But Tyler Johnson, Convergent’s CEO, realized there was a disconnect. Convergent’s main offering was essentially improving overall business agility. This sparked interest in business leadership, but not IT – the ones with budgets for technology, looking to solve narrow technical problems and more urgent issues.

Influencing organizational and budgetary issues within large enterprises as part of the sales process is simply too challenging for a startup. Tyler realized Convergent needed to pivot to a narrower, more clearly defined solution. Convergent’s conversation with The Weather Company, brokered through the BridgeCommunity, shed light on what that clearly defined solution could be.

The European Union’s new General Data Protection Regulation (GDPR) is giving Convergent a “hair-on-fire” corporate problem to tackle. With just 10 months before the enforcement date, this new European Union data privacy law is critical for every company with EU customers, as they will be liable for stiff new penalties of up to 4% of their global revenue.

By attaching policies and metadata to customer data, Convergent’s technology will now enable automation of data governance with policies driven by permissible use, consent, and other compliance data. This makes it possible to quickly, safely and cost effectively use personal data to create better, more personalized customer experiences. The best part was that there was minimal rework for Convergent. The pivot towards helping corporations comply with GDPR only required modest enhancements to Convergent’s existing technology stack.  

“With the pivot, we will be able to focus on a specific hair-on-fire problem where there is money already budgeted,” explains Johnson.

To uncover what subset of compliance problems to focus on, Convergent is currently conducting customer discovery interviews with teams in charge of ensuring GDPR compliance at BridgeCommunity member corporations.

 

3 Benefits of the BridgeCommunity Enterprise Network

Selling into a Fortune 500 is a ton of work. If you don’t have sales experience or a warm intro, it’s going to be like digging for gold. You have to search the web, flex your network, and look under hundreds of rocks before you meet the right person that can champion you into the company – especially as an early-stage startup.  Even after all that work, your contact can change roles or leave the company and then you have start all over!

Worse than rubbing elbows… corporations can be slow moving when it comes to cutting deals. As a startup, waiting for months or even years for the gig to land is a huge potential problem. We don’t have that kind of runway!

Since joining the BridgeCommunity we have been able to cut out both the introduction merry-go-round, and the drag-your-feet nature of corporate negotiations.

 

Here’s three of the biggest benefits we’ve garnered from the program:

 

Contacts are Hand Picked for You

This part is amazing. Literally, whatever problem your product solves, you will be connected to an executive with a budget line to review your product. The best part? You don’t have to search linkedin, referrals, or even cold lists. The BridgeCommunity selects corporate strategy partners from participating enterprises to talk with you and set up one-on-one meetings at the corporate HQ with the right decision maker. I guess you can consider it as an arranged blind date – you can guarantee that you’ll meet a decision maker, but it’s up to you to take it to the next steps.

You are coached

How often does an enterprise coach you to sell to them? Never. Unless, you’re in the BridgeCommunity where each participating corporation supplies a program liaison, or startup champion. Here’s how one of our intros went:

“This team is TopPick, they’ve built a platform to engage, screen and hire better quality talent. We chose TopPick as one of the startup companies we want to work with. When you meet with them, keep it informal and help TopPick understand our business and how they might best add value to us. This should be a two way dialogue with questions from both sides, not a pitch. If an opportunity surfaces, we’ll dive in later. TopPick has a lot of potential – they could use your guidance on how to work with us.”

Wow. Talk about setting the meeting up to build rapport and lower the barriers to entry.  Here’s where you have your chance to shine and take it to the next steps.

You land gigs

Lastly, of course. This is what everyone wants… your startup lands gigs. Most teams that go through BridgeCommunity land pilots with at least one of the Fortune 500 teams. In 2016, nine pilots and proof-of-concepts were created.

For some, landing a pilot is even better than receiving funding for equity. 3 months in, we’ve received a verbal confirmation from one of the companies and within the next few weeks, we’ll update you all on how things ended.

 

Today’s Results

After three months in the BridgeCommunity, we’ve been able to get in front of 10+ executives from 5 of the world’s largest enterprises. We have received a verbal agreement from one and two more enterprises are moving us to the next stages of the process to become partners.

We have already received such clear, positive results in our short time in the program. With no equity taken for enterprise sales training, help landing huge enterprise clients, and only a nominal time commitment, our involvement has been a win-win-win.

 

Author, Justin Ham, is the CEO of TopPick – the candidate engagement platform that engages your candidates faster than ever before with their bolt on application for your ATS – helping you reach candidates through text, calls and video.

Why Convergent Chose Atlanta & Joined the BridgeCommunity

It was the fall of 2014 and we were finally ready. Nearly 10 years after getting my MBA in Entrepreneurship from Southern Methodist University in Dallas, we had finally built up enough savings and it was time to leave the corporate world to embark on the new, uncertain path to building a new company. But my home in San Antonio, TX wasn’t the right fit for the new venture – lacking in both a strong personal and startup network – we needed to move.

But where?  Since I’m in the cloud computing space, the Bay area in CA is an obvious first choice, but after looking at how quickly we would burn up our savings, it seemed too risky.  We could go back to Dallas and I could make great use of all the school and business connections there, but the tech startup scene is only just emerging and more importantly, our family was really feeling a need to reconnect with our roots in the South – so we took a look at Atlanta.

At first glance, the main redeeming qualities for Atlanta were the major airport and the relatively reasonable cost of living.  I figured worst case, the flights to San Francisco and Seattle would be reasonable and we’d be within a day’s drive from our families in Alabama and Florida.  But after beginning the process of inserting our family into the fabric of our local community we found that, almost by luck, we had found the ideal place for us to start our tech company.

Soon after moving to Alpharetta, the fastest growing large city in GA and the home of great schools for our 2 sets of twins (as well as a number technology companies large and small), we joined Georgia Tech’s Advanced Technology Development Center (ATDC). Our membership turned out to be a great way to get engaged with Atlanta’s technology community and an amazing source of resources.

I quickly realized that Atlanta had a vibrant technology startup scene with Tech Square, Atlanta Tech Village and lots of startups – especially in the Mobile, Fintec, Security, and, increasingly, the IoT space.  And unlike my experience in the Bay area, there’s a strong faith based component to our technology communities with organizations like High Tech Ministries, which was an unexpected but welcome bonus to being part of the Atlanta technology scene. The other thing we have going for us is the large number of innovative large companies in Atlanta, companies like Coca-Cola, SunTrust, The Weather Company, Intercontinental Hotel Group, UPS, Cox Enterprises, Delta, NCR and many others that could serve as early adopters of new technologies.

Atlanta’s strong community of large companies is a clear benefit for B2B startups focused on businesses, but there’s a catch – corporate cultures can be risk averse, slow to move and difficult to navigate, and this is a real challenge for startups. Enter Coca-Cola’s BridgeCommunity. This program, sponsored by 7 Atlanta companies, was created to bridge the gap by partnering startups with Fortune 500s for pilots and the commercialization of new technologies. It wasn’t easy for us to get in – we went through 2 rounds of selection, and out of more than 200 startups, we were one of just 22 selected.  Now, as a BridgeCommunity startup, we are in a great position to build deep corporate relationships and potentially land one of Atlanta’s giants as our customer – a win that would catapult our startup to the next level.    

Atlanta provides a unique place for startups. For us, the combination of faith and family, the vibrant startup scene, and the strong corporate business economy have proven to be an ideal fit. I know that we’re losing large numbers amazingly talented Ga Tech, Ga State, KSU, Emory and other grads to competing tech hubs, but as they mature and want to start families while still participating in world class innovation, they’ll realize that coming home to Atlanta is a great option. Our company is still early, but with the help of our Atlanta community and the BridgeCommunity, Convergent is in great shape to be a huge success.

Author, Tyler Johnson, is the CEO of Convergent – Convergent’s Onto™ Integration Fabric accelerates innovation by helping companies rapidly create new ways to engage customers. With their platform, in a few days you can brainstorm new ways to engage, build multiple prototypes with data from anywhere, and test each approach on a customer sample. It’s now cheap to throw out ideas that fail and rapidly scale ideas that work.  Convergent is a member of the 2017 BridgeCommnity startup cohort. 

4 Pieces of Advice to Sell Your Pilot

Our startup workshop covering pilot program principles, models & case studies with Scott Sambucci was a roaring success. In line with our focus on building Atlanta’s entrepreneurial ecosystem and our belief in the power of collaborating with other programs in the community, we opened up the workshop to B2B and B2B2C early-stage tech companies in other accelerators all over Atlanta. Five local startups joined our 2017 startup cohort and got to work building out a pilot program for their company’s active sales opportunities.

We cherry-picked Scott Sambucci to lead the workshop because of his 20 years of experience in building and selling technology products – leading three Silicon Valley startups each to their first millions in revenue. His most recent startup, Blend Labs, was backed by Andressen-Horowitz and Peter Thiel. Scott is also a marketing professor at Hult International Business School and has been a featured speaker at a TEDx event in San Francisco, The Lean Startup Conference, and at the US Chamber of Commerce.

Here are four top takeaways from Scott’s workshop on startup piloting:

 

A Super Startup Storytelling Workshop

The BridgeCommuity program is heavily front-loaded with educational workshops for both our startup and corporate participants to learn best practices for building relationships with each other over the duration of the program.

Our storytelling workshop, led by Marcie Anthone of Marcie L Anthone & Associates and Stephen Walker of Headmint, takes each of our 22 cohort startups through a one-on-one coaching session to hone their messaging when communicating with a corporate audience. This exercise helps startups to better understand their brand and how it might be helpful to prospective corporations and culminates in a developed brand logline (an elevator pitch) so that the startup can speak succinctly about their brand.

The process kicks off with Marcie and Stephen interviewing the BridgeCommunity’s seven corporate partners to find out how each is hoping to drive specific startup relationships forward. The dynamic duo then meets with the startups individually for a one-day intensive workshop to help them customize their messaging for these interested corporate partners.

The startup workshop content is rich and dense, yet beautifully digestible. The results of the workshop are revamped taglines, pitch decks, and in-person elevator pitches – with 22 startups poised to discuss their offerings with eager corporations.

Pratter, one of our 2017 startup cohort companies, had an especially enlightening experience in the workshop:

By rearranging a few simple words, we created a better slogan. Pratter does save  consumers money on medical care but “Transparently Saving Healthcare” means so much more. We are now stepping in almost like a superhero to rescue employee consumers from the rigged system. We just happen to do it with medical cost transparency. Also, the larger the villain, the better the superhero. Instead of selecting the hospitals or the health insurance companies or the government as the villain – it’s all of them! The system is rigged to make us purchase medical care blindly and be ripped off. By making “the system” the villain, we have created Pratter as the easy-to-cheer-for superhero. –Bill Hennessey MD, CEO, Pratter

 

Knowledge Transfer: Spreading Learnings From the BridgeCommunity

As a CEO of a fast growing startup, getting selected to participate in the BridgeCommunity Program was a great win. Reading about past cohorts, I had no doubt this would be a great learning experience for me and our other executives. However, GridQuire Labs is much more than three people. We have other employees, clients, partners, and investors. To get the most out of the BridgeCommunity, I devised a plan to transfer the knowledge we gained from workshops, talks, peer-learning, and interfacing with large enterprises to everyone our company touches.

DEFINITION: Knowledge transfer is the methodical replication of the expertise, wisdom, and tacit knowledge of critical professionals into the heads and hands of their coworkers. It is more than just on-the-job training. It is the planned movement of the right skills and information at the right time to keep a workforce prepared, productive, innovative, and competitive.

Read again, the definition only mentions coworkers. Various academia, dictionaries and “experts”  only mention coworkers and workforce, I disagree with all of them.  Knowledge Transfer can be applied to everyone an organization touches as there is value for more than just our workforce. A prime example is the first BridgeCommunity workshop we attended about enterprise negotiation tactics facilitated by Vantage Partners. We learned about an older, but innovative, clandestine method to negotiate. Of course I shared this with my team, however, I also shared it with investors, clients, and partners.

Outcome:  One investor recalled some of the theory back from his MBA days. We had a long conversation about it and this conversation led to us tweaking how both of our companies negotiate complex deals. I also shared my recent education with one of GridQuire Labs’ clients. He took multiple valuable points away from the conversation and called me a week later saying he used the tactic and it helped increase his margin on that particular deal by 15%.

Takeaway: Knowledge Transfer is critical and valuable for our internal workforce. However, you should transfer knowledge to more than just your employees. Doing so, you may find yourself even adding incremental value to others outside your organization.

Author, Andy Katz, is the CEO of Atlanta-Based GridQuire Labs – a  location intelligent mobile advertising plus sales enablement platform. GridQuire Labs is a member of the 2017 BridgeCommnity startup cohort. 

Welcome 2017 BridgeCommunity Startup Cohort!

This year we significantly increased our startup recruitment outreach efforts – resulting in triple the number of applications and double the number of participating startups compared to last year. A big welcome to both our two new enterprise members, Suntrust Banks and Porsche North America, and the 22 startups chosen for the 2017 BridgeCommunity cohort!

With a commitment to put Atlanta on the map as a fertile location for innovation, we focused on cultivating local startups and also drawing national and international startups into the program and the city. In addition, we’ve cooked up a digestible and actionable educational curriculum for both startups and enterprises that will significantly streamline how each approaches commercialization, even beyond the confines of the program.

Starting this month, 22 startups will gain access to a heavy-hitting list of corporations – Capgemini, Coca-Cola, COX Enterprises, InterContinental Hotels Group, Porsche North America, SunTrust Bank, and The Weather Company – motivated to build relationships during the six-month program based in Atlanta.

This year’s all-star startup line-up includes

accessnow (Atlanta, GA) – The premier Privileged Access Management (PAM) app for the Salesforce platform, enabling governance, compliance and agility.CinaMaker (Atlanta, GA) – A multi-camera HD live streaming and recording made easy. Make your videos more interesting and professional w/4 camera angles.Convergent (Alpharetta, GA) – Convergent’s Onto™ Integration Fabric helps you imagine and test new customer data use cases in the cloud in days, not months or years.

Cybraics (Atlanta, GA) – Cybraics is an advanced analytics and artificial intelligence company, focused on solving the hardest problems in cybersecurity.Dasdak (Washington, D.C.) – Mobile commerce in large, populated venues.

Dream Agility (Manchester, UK) – A multi award winning, 2 patent pending, integration free, cloud based Adtech. One of only 35 Google Shopping Partners globally and a Google Premier Partner.

GridQuire Labs (Atlanta, GA) – Location intelligent mobile advertising plus sales enablement platform.
MARK Labs (Washington, D.C.) – Helps companies achieve their social impact and sustainability goals through payment and data management software.Mile Auto (Atlanta, GA) – Insurance provider which only charges you for the miles you drive. Low-mileage drivers enjoy quality coverage for 50-60% less.PayLow Rate (Detroit, MI) – Provides a marketplace that allows for direct-to-consumer financing that is fast, simple and secure – all in the comfort of home, for free.Pratter (Greensburg, PA) – America’s medical cost savings company helping millions save billions via medical cost transparency. Sold as an employee benefit.Pyur Solutions (Los Angeles, CA) – Cuts out the ubiquity of synthetics with non-toxic, biodegradable, plant-based pesticides, full of ingredients you can trust.Reply.ai (New York City, NY) – The enterprise level chatbot building & management platform that makes B2C communication suck less.
re:3D (Austin, TX) – Is pushing the limits of 3D printing. Their flagship technology, the Gigabot®, is the world’s largest, affordable 3D printer.SiteWhere (Atlanta, GA) – An open-source platform for the Internet of Things. It provides a framework for rapid development of complex IoT applications.Skignz (Stockton-on-Tees, UK) – A multi-award winning unique Augmented Reality (AR) platform placing visual content in location, accessed via a smartphone or tablet device.Starling Trust (Washington, D.C.)- Generates insights into firm culture from internal communications data to improve performance and to address hidden systemic riskTawkers (New York City, NY) – Create & manage real-time text conversations between influencers, with no production cost, reduced influencer effort & maximum engagement.

TopPick (Atlanta, GA) – Reduce up to 60% of waste created in the interviewing process by combining digital interviewing and messaging to accelerate your hiring process.Trust Stamp (Atlanta, GA) – Trust Stamp provides identity and trust as a service by empowering enterprises to authenticate and recognize their customers and transact business safely and more efficiently using cutting edge biometric solutions.Verady (Atlanta, GA) – Blockchain based critical data assurance.WAVLINKZ (Atlanta, GA) – Powers real-time music sharing and discovery.

 

In the 2016 cohort, which included 10 startups and 5 corporations, the commercialization program went beyond enterprise and startup matchmaking – catalyzing nine pilots and proof-of-concepts. During the program, participating startups collectively hired 32 new employees, experienced an average increase of 150% in month over month revenue, and raised $2.9M in VC funding.

We’re excited to see what the addition of two new corporate partners and doubling the number of participating startups will propel us to next. Stay tuned to find out about the first deal secured, corporate & startup relationship best practices, and the results from this incredible pool of innovative startups and corporations.

Why You Should Apply to the BridgeCommunity Right Now

We are thrilled that Let’s Talk Payments is spreading the word on why Financial Technology startups across America should take part in our program. Check out the article:

The BridgeCommunity is based in Atlanta because it is a hotbed for FinTech startups and Fortune 500s:

  • Georgia FinTech companies generate annual revenues of more than $72 billion, placing 3rd in the nation.
  • Roughly 100 FinTech companies are headquartered or have a significant presence in Georgia. Six of the 10 largest US Payment processing firms are GA-based.
  • Georgia FinTech companies process over 118 billion transactions per year representing over $2 trillion of purchase volume each year, supporting nearly 4 million merchants

Atlanta is also home to the FinTech Atlanta Taskforce, an organization that works to recruit and retain companies, capital and talent in the FinTech industry. As a partner of the BridgeCommunity, the FinTech Taskforce will provide a depth of knowledge into the program by tapping into their networks, creating additional training opportunities and social events with guest speakers.

READ IN FULL

 

2017 Bridge Community Program Announcement | What we’re cooking up

Apply

Momentum from the Bridge Community’s first cohort of 10 startups and 5 corporations is still snowballing. In 2016, 9 pilots and proof-of-concepts were created over seven months and participating startups collectively hired 32 new employees, experienced an average increase of 150% in month over month revenue, and raised $2.9M in VC funding.

Now we are back for round two and aiming even higher! The plan is to triple the number of participating startups to 30 and expand our corporate innovators list too. Porsche Financial Services has already been added to the killer corporate lineup from last year including: Coca-Cola, COX Enterprises, InterContinental Hotels Group, The Weather Company, and Capgemini. Expect more to be announced soon.

2017’s three verticals of focus are FinTech, Consumer Engagement, and IoT startups. We’re looking for 10 cream of the crop startups in each industry to take part.

The upcoming cohort will gain access to large corporations motivated to run pilots and enter licensing agreements during the program. From April-Oct 2017, the Bridge Community program will engineer and accelerate startup and corporate relationships with the singular focus to help startups find the right customer inside the walls of large corporations and get a deal done.

Startups receive world-class enterprise sales, marketing, and negotiations training to understand corporate innovation needs and hone offerings, while corporations are coached on minimizing roadblocks to streamline pilots and simplify contracts. This educational programming is followed by targeted introductions and relationship mediation to solidify a deal and launch pilots a’ plenty.

We are keeping things simple for the startups, because If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it (said in a southern drawl). The program only requires a commitment of 2 hours per week from one person on the startup team. No equity or IP taken or cash given to startups.

Do you know any early-stage, scale, or growth stage startups looking for large enterprise customers? Shoot referrals to our Managing Director, Carie Davis at Carie@bridgecommunity.com and find the application (due March 28th) on f6s: https://www.f6s.com/atlantabridgecommunity2017