Recently I was asked the question: should start-ups build their business on the success of the other start-ups? I think the real question, being asked between the lines, was what is success based on?

The reality is that most successful software companies bet their business on the success of other software companies, whether by design or default. While there is always fear of ‘missing the boat,’ if your businesses are driven by a vision that is creating change and expanding value for customers, the potential for mutual success is tremendous.

When we started Apttus, we were motivated in large part by a simple, but at the time seemingly revolutionary idea – that enterprise software should deliver on its promises and make customers successful, rapidly. When we saw Salesforce’s original logo, with a big, brash red line through the word “software,” we knew we had found a like-minded company. Salesforce has since exploded into the world’s most reliable, scalable cloud computing platform, with 4 million supported apps, 72 billion records securely stored, and more than1.5 billion transactions processed a day. Simply astounding! And we have been right alongside them, continually expanding the Apttus Quote-to-Cash footprint to support 300+ customers worldwide.

Focus on your unique value in a shared vision of a new future

Mutual success is rooted in seeing a different opportunity coming from the same or similar technologies. For Apttus, choosing to deliver our enterprise-class applications on the Salesforce1 Platform allowed us to focus on innovation and advanced functionality, capitalizing on the benefits of and demand for cloud computing more rapidly than if we had to own our own infrastructure.

Create a business that seeks to drive the creation of more businesses

The threat of new competition makes everyone a little wary. But if you can build a business that allows other start-ups to succeed, you create the potential to benefit from tremendous mutual gains. The remarkable success of the Salesforce AppExchange and Veeva’s recent IPO are two examples of how building on the shared vision that cloud-based enterprise apps can deliver significant customer value, can breed value for all involved.

Combining start-ups with established technologies can further fuel success

A few years ago Microsoft opened up the Microsoft Office ribbon to developers and in effect created new market opportunities. At Apttus, we capitalized on this opportunity to allow users of our solutions work within the familiar Microsoft Office with all document activity controlled and preserved by the Salesforce1 Platform. As a result, companies can drive user adoption, accelerate business processes and increase their Salesforce ROI. Our goal for X-Author Excel is to expand markets and create more opportunity for our enterprise software solutions in the cloud.

Start-ups need to both think big and find synergies with partners engaged in the same revolutionary trends. But the success you can always count on to drive your success is that of your customers. Be uncompromising in your focus on their success and watch your business accelerate.

In my next post I’ll discus my experience guest lecturing at INSEAD Business School for a recent course on: “Building Businesses in Silicon Valley.” One trend I see developing is that success depends more and more on expanding your vision and talent to include thinking that is outside the Valley while maintaining the creativity and energy of this unique area.

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