By Tomer Y. Avni
Last month we hosted our quarterly Blumberg Capital CIO Council meetings in New York and San Francisco. The council includes more than 100 CIOs and CISOs from leading Global 2000 companies who meet to discuss major IT, cybersecurity and enterprise software topics, learn about the latest technologies, forge partnerships and to help our portfolio companies overcome some of their key challenges.
In our most recent meeting, one theme was most prevalent – it’s all about trust.
Founders, CEOs and CTOs are often all too eager to convey that their solution is disruptive and innovative. We often hear, “It’s 100% automatic!” or “it’s 10 times faster!” in pitch presentations. If true, these are impressive and enticing achievements that deliver tangible and quantifiable benefits. That said, not all companies are ready or willing to demonstrably prove their value and take the needed steps to build trust with their early potential customers.
Founders of startups selling into enterprise IT and cybersecurity domains can and often have impact on core, vital and operational components for large corporations and organizations. Thus, if they hope to gain confidence with early-adopter customers, they should focus on demonstrating value and building trust rather than trying to “wow” the audience and build excitement with exaggerated assertions about cool technology. Remember that CIOs and CISOs are rewarded for being prudent, not taking excessive risk, and not “screwing up.” Here are five ways to build trust:
1. Emphasize how your product assures the CIO that your solution solves a real, pressing problem without disrupting or risking the ongoing networks, applications and operational performance. Show that your product will make their work more effective, more organized and less complicated rather than generating more alerts and added information overload or management burden.
2. Subtly show how the new solution empowers the CIO and IT management rather than replacing them. Market and message your solution as a management or activation solution, that can integrate with existing applications and incorporate automation and autonomous learning mechanisms as well over time.
3. Know your customer. The more you learn about the existing processes and standards of potential CIO or CISO customers, the better prepared you will be to have valuable discussions, understand their needs and build trust. For example, if you learn that a CIO requires an internal audit every six months and you build your solution to be integrated with the audit system, it will be easier for the CIO to adopt your solution with confidence.
4. Give them control with easy “on – off” capabilities. Add a “Shut Down” feature to your solution that gives the CIO the ability to “cut applications off” immediately, replace keys and authentication certificates and return to the initial state. This facilitates trust by going far beyond “trust me”.
5. Explain how your technology works. Don’t present your solution as a magic black box. CIOs will better respect the depth of your tech and the breadth of thought and effort you’ve invested in it. White papers and architecture diagrams can help. If they meticulously understand how your product works, they’ll understand how it integrates with the different systems they have, how it fits into their current workflow and what are the advantages and disadvantages for their context. Conveying these aspects will also show your technology understanding and expertise, and will make the CIO trust you and your team.
At Blumberg Capital, we find the engagement between our CIO Council and our portfolio companies to be invaluable. Our founders/CEOs get useful feedback and learn how CIOs think and the CIOs gain access to the latest technology. In short, it builds trust.