Monday, January 25, 2010

Venture Capitalists and the CMO

Who's the most important member of the team?

There has been a lot written about the success or failure of a start-up resting on the shoulders of the CEO.  While the buck stops there, where does it start?

For technology companies the marketing function represents the conduit for moving from start-up to business.  As commented on "Cool is not a Strategy"  it is a long way from cool to cash.  Since venture funding goes to firms that have proven that there already 'is something' the real challenge becomes translating early adoption into a sustainable growth model.   Since marketers are paid to change history (new products, markets and segments) they are responsible for the road map of getting from here to there.    This means crafting a vision of the customers' world, even if they themselves can't, and leading the development of a series of incremental steps to get there.    

In a recent WSJ article on strategic planning the point was made that plans needed to be much more flexible and adaptable because we can "no longer count on a 'reasonable set of assumptions'".   Who better than the CMO of a young company to take on the responsibility of understanding the shifting sands?  She is out there every day; she can sense opportunity and respond.  

So when the venture capitalist asks about your team start first with the CMO.  Don't have one? Get one even if you have to rent one for a while.   This is too important to leave to the intern.  

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