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Early-stage companies sell to, partner with consultants

Early-stage companies are finding IT consulting firms can serve as a customer base and a sales conduit for their offerings.

A few of the startups selected for MIT Sloan CIO Symposium’s Innovation Showcase, held May 22 in Cambridge, Mass., are cultivating partnerships with well-established technology advisors. The annual Innovation Showcase highlights 10 companies deemed to represent the cream of the innovation crop for enterprise customers.

Project management firm finds consulting niche

Clubhouse, an Innovation Showcase finalist based in New York, offers a project management platform geared toward software development teams. Deloitte is among the startup’s customers.

“We find that IT consulting firms are a key and growing market segment for Clubhouse,” said Mitch Wainer, CMO at Clubhouse. “Forward-thinking IT consultants or agencies such as Deloitte use Clubhouse as their go-to project management tool for software development.”

Consultants using the project management product in-house may open sales opportunities with their clients.

“They will use Clubhouse for their clients’ projects as well as recommend it to their clients as a tool to adopt post project completion,” Wainer said.

Secure coding startup teams with consultants

Secure Code Warrior, a Boston company and showcase finalist, has also established alliances with consulting partners. The company, which offers a suite of educational secure coding tools, works with Accenture and Optiv, for example.

“We see them as strategic partners that can take our solution to a broader market,” said Matias Madou, co-founder and CTO at Secure Code Warrior.

The startup initially pursued direct sales. But Secure Code Warrior, having optimized its sales process over the last three years, is looking to partners for a boost.

“Now we feel that we can scale our sales by engaging with the strategic partners,” Madou said.

Enterprise AI company eyes channel partners

NLP Logix, a finalist based in Jacksonville, Fla., is taking a similar path. The company sells directly to customers due to the highly customized nature of the machine learning and intelligent automation solutions it provides for enterprise customers. The company, however, has developed a set of products in addition to its customized offerings.

“We are beginning to develop channel partners to distribute them,” said Samantha Hartman, director of marketing at NLP Logix.

Those products are Scribe Fusion, an AI-based OCR/ICR offering; PayPensity, a product for accounts receivable management, credit and debt recovery organizations; and Matchpoint, which automates workflow for recruiting teams.

Early-stage companies, in general, may first focus on direct sales to learn more about customer needs and buying patterns before turning over sales to channel partners. That said, some startups develop channel marketing strategies from the onset.

The rest of the field

Other startups featured in MIT Sloan’s top 10 include AllyO, a maker of AI-based recruiting software; Big Panda, an autonomous operations platform vendor; DeepBench, an expert sourcing platform; Elisify, an on-demand marketplace for financial data; Gradle, a build automation tool developer; Posh, a conversational AI platform; and Topos Labs, a text-mining software vendor.

This year’s Innovation Showcase focused on early-stage companies with 2018 revenue of less than $10 million. Other selection criteria included the availability of an enterprise IT product in the market, a sales motion targeting CIOs or corporate IT departments, the ability to demonstrate innovation, and the potential to improve a customer’s top and/or bottom lines.

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