fantasy founder - beta club

Continuing an occasional series about products and companies that I’d like to build or see built someday.

Tech decision making does not scale. The last mile of commitment always comes at the price of actual use and trial. That’s why we have pilots, proof of concepts, bake-offs.

If that last mile is the part we have to do, then the rest needs to be compressed—both the front end of qualification-to-selection to the back end of implementation-to-operation. Why some companies buy things that take months-to-years to get up and running baffles me. Why some companies spend months to figure out what to try (with generally worthless RFx processes), when ultimately those things may not even work in practice, also baffles me.

Analysts help a little bit. One of the decision support roles they're supposed to serve is answering whether a particular technology or vendor is the right fit for an organization and problem. There are some that do this with startup tech, like 451, Redmonk, Jonah or Lydia. But very few have insight or access to tech before it hits the market. That takes personal networks, connections to investors and the concerted efforts of dedicated people employed for just that.

What if that was taken care of? And you could just join a buyers’ club of sorts?

Something like this:

  • Be dedicated to experimentation and actually trying things, because we’ve accepted that there’s no shortcut
  • Believe that tech is worth investing in, can render a competitive advantage, and want to try new things when they’re new
  • Once a quarter, answer a short questionnaire about 3-4 pressing tech problems that are unserved or underserved by existing vendors
  • Get matched to a startup product, on the market or stealth, released product or pilot/alpha/beta—matching not just for capability, but for technological fit
  • One followup meeting, within a month, to get the best fit and work out details
  • Shortly thereafter, have licenses, code, etc., from the best matches in hand to get cranking in test
  • There could be packages, free to try, support and feedback arrangements, good terms for logos and press releases, etc.

Highly personalized, curated new tech? Something like that. Sounds hipster-tastic, but oh well. 

It could manifest as just a mailing list. It could be blind, so neither the startup nor the member knows who the other party is until things get in the lab—to make it purely about solving the problem.

I’m guessing it would be most useful for non startups, non large financial services, non large tech co’s, non already-big web/social/mobile. Aside from communication, the whole thing would be done manually by someone. thus naturally limiting absolute scale at any given point in time and speed of scaling over time. Which is ok. 

I call it Beta Club

If it provides a steady stream of real, useful pilot opportunities and pre-launch logos—investors and founders would bite. If it provided a steady stream of real, useful early access to game changers—tech buyers would bite.