Startup thought leadership paves the path to M&A

Ezra Roizen · October 9, 2017 · Short URL:

Frame your market, establish the dominant narrative and be the North Star of your sector

North Star

Big ideas power startup acquisitions.

Acquisitions are expensive, risky and complex. In order for a potential strategic partner (we call them “PSPs”) to make such a big move they have to have a powerful idea.  

An idea so big that the only way they believe they can capitalize on this particular emerging market opportunity is by acquiring the top platform and team in the space, you.

The trick is, it has to be their idea!  The idea has to be born of the PSPs strategy and culture.

This isn’t to say you can’t help in the creation of the big idea. But understand that until it becomes their idea, no acquisition is going to happen.

Virtually all of my past M&A clients wish they had “started sooner.” But what does that mean? What does it mean to “start sooner” when it comes to startup M&A? It means these startup founders wished they had begun the process of framing the market opportunity, establishing their narrative and getting to know the key players earlier in their lifecycle.

These founders wish they had started the process of creating big ideas sooner.

But how?

Hiring bankers, working up a deck and getting out and pitching your wares?

No, that’s not typically a great plan.

Going about pitching is a weak form of idea creation. It’s largely closed ended (you telling them how the world is). Pitching may float a few interesting concepts by PSPs, but it’s hardly a collaborative process, and will more likely burn up a bunch of your cycles and leave you with not much to show for the effort.

It can also be a decaying rather than building process. There’s value to being on the radar of potential PSPs, but when you’re out pitching it’s not really a collaborative dialogue between professionals, but can instead take on a sale-sy dynamic.

Idea creation happens when peers come together in a collegial environment of mutual respect. This collaborative context opens the intellectual spigot and starts the flow of big ideas.

The venue for this process is your thought leadership. Consistently producing pieces of thought leadership creates the platform for dialogue with the key stakeholders in your sector. The door is opened for conversations about major market shifts and macro trends. The stage is set for you to gradually influence what the market sees as important.

There’s also a subtle, but powerful, shift in the form of the conversation when you start with thought leadership. You get to start by listening rather than speaking. When the context of an interaction is set around you introducing your company, you do most of the talking. However, when the context is set around understanding their view of market trends, guess what? They do most of the talking! This is the way to learn about their view of the world, and gives you an opportunity to influence their perspective, while also contextualizing yours.

Design a thought leadership strategy which brings you into conversation with the key players in your sector. Create reasons to pick their brain, or interview them, or get their feedback on your next post. Get their big idea flywheel spinning, with you at the center!

Don’t just write to write, use the process as a way to spark and develop relationships.

The best part is that this strategy doesn’t just work with PSPs, it also works with commercial partners and even potential investors. When you understand their view of the world, and can frame your opportunity in a way that matches their strategic priorities, you’ll find everything else in the relationship is downhill. But if you’re unaware of their opinion, or worse, off base in their eyes, then a climb of even 100 pitches isn’t going to get you where you want to go.

Advsr has developed a comprehensive methodology for helping our startup clients develop and execute upon their thought leadership strategy. We call this process, Elevate. If you’d like to learn more about Elevate give me a ping, but regardless if you work with us, or take a DIY approach, get out there and start the conversation with the key PSPs in your category right away.

You have the ability to do the one thing all our past clients wish they had done, start sooner.

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Ezra Roizen

Advisor-to and commenter-on emerging ventures

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