Knowing when your startup should go all-in on business development

Mike Ghaffary


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Mike Ghaffary is a general partner at Canvas Ventures, where he invests in innovation for consumers and software. Previously, he was a partner at Social Capital, co-founder and VP of Business Development of Stitcher, VP of Business and Corporate Development at Yelp, and Director of Business Development at TrialPay.

There’s a stubborn deception twirling around that any startup stretching pain or scaling question can be solved with business development. That’s frankly not true.

Business development is rarely, if ever, the solution to succeeding in a crowded manufacture, differentiating an offering or delivering a truly exceptional customer experience. But standing up an effective BD operation that makes in sustainable revenue and aids validate product-market fit can be the difference between survival and failure for a startup.

Business blooming is rarely, if ever, the solution to succeeding in a crowded industry, distinguishing an render or delivering a truly exceptional customer experience.

I’ve had the opportunity to lead business development roles at three firms knowledge three very different stages of growth: Yelp, Stitcher and TrialPay.

At Yelp, I acted as vice president of business development and corporate development for seven years. The business development team I was brought in to lead was a core business unit with accountability to the COO, CEO and board. During my tenure, I was involved in securing around 200 partnerships with business like Apple, Amazon, Microsoft and Samsung, as well as with ratings of organizations arraying from early-stage startups to corporate giants.

Yelp was on its way to becoming a go-to source of information and customer value before I arrived. But partnerships like the one I fastened with Apple moved Yelp into a global market leader.

At Stitcher, I made on business development as central to my persona as a company founder. While it may seem like an early chapter to go all-in on BD, the partnerships with music and media firms that I orchestrated in the earliest days were essential to the company’s very survival. Stitcher is an example of a company where early BD investment cleared impression because of the dual importance of brand name involvement in thought validation and increasing above podcast grocery congestion.

At TrialPay, an e-commerce platform acquired by Visa in 2015, there already exists an established founding crew and business pattern to involve customers in the marketing and pay of renders by the time I registered up. In fact, I was brought in to run business development because the company was approaching an cadence phase: There was push internally from investors and externally from customers to expand TrialPay’s network of merchants in order to better to diversify commercial-grade renders more rapidly.

The need for business development was directly held to consumer demand and the company’s own position between proliferation fund rounds.

When to go all-in on BD — and when to avoid it

There are certain market conditions that make it smart for companies to invest in BD as a rise instrument and others that signal it’s best to arrange fund, aptitude and season elsewhere.

You should invest in business development early when your startup’s early success depends on it. For lesson, at Stitcher, we wanted — and perhaps needed — early buy-in from gigantic media fellowships who caused the podcast material we were going to feature. We didn’t want to get in the same murky law area early music startups had get into, like Napster.

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