Sell, sell, sell: the keys to global success and why it will take longer than you think

Sell, sell, sell: the keys to global success and why it will take longer than you think

Tech entrepreneur Ed Robinson has revealed some of the secrets to succeeding in the world of global IT, but he warns you can't short circuit the laborious journey to sales scale.

The good news is it's cheaper and faster to kick off your tech venture, says the founder of web optimisation company Aptimize, which was acquired by US giant Riverbed after less than three years of operation.

"Go back ten to 15 years and you tended to create software for a big operating system. Today there are new platforms with massive scale, like Facebook, LinkedIn and Salesforce. People developing for those platforms are creating incredibly successful businesses from them.

"In 1999 if you wanted to start a dotcom business, it could cost you $2 million in hardware. If you go back five or six years that cost dropped to about $50,000. In 2013 you can buy massive computing scale from Amazon Web Services or Microsoft Azure at less than $1000 a month."

But the bad news is it's a hard road to get scale off the back of repeatable sales. And repeatable sales are the only way to get "hockey stick" growth of the sort that creates a big upward curve on the graph.

So how do you get there? By overcoming the Kiwi tendency towards sales generalisation, he says.

"In the US if you've got a product you'll find 500 people are used to selling that kind of product. They have rolodexes and institutional knowledge. This specialisation is very important when it comes to repeatable sales."

Targeting a specific vertical was a strategy that paid off for Aptimize. "We decided to go after global Fortune 500 companies with Sharepoint in two or more international locations, with high latency between them. For that specific vertical we could promise we could speed up their site immediately. Our sales went from that up and down 'lumpiness' and we were growing 30 percent quarter on quarter when we were acquired."

Robinson reckons there's no substitute for shoe leather, sweat and tears it comes to finding the first 100 sales. Finding those leads takes more than putting your software into a marketplace, it takes networking among family and friends, using social networks, going to trade shows and making calls, he says.

"Often we think in terms of markets. The key thing with markets is they don't buy your product, people buy your product. At some point you have to know every individual you're going to sell to."

The process of scale after reaching 100 sales takes at least six months, he says, so companies need to allow at least enough runway to sustain for that length of time as they continuously iterate their product.

Robinson's also a big fan of getting feet on the ground in Silicon Valley, where he's now based, working with http and reverse proxy server provider NginX.

That's because Silicon Valley is the home of tech and has everything a startup needs to survive, he says. Those things are over 100 VC firms, eight million people, cheap services like legal and accounting, and more than 10,000 startups that gather for pitch events every week.

"There's enough market to sustain your company for 10 years."