All You Need to Know About Start-up ISVs

In an exclusive blog for Salesforce Republic, we sit down with Adrian Szwarcburg, Senior Vice President of Business Development at DigitSec to discuss all there is to know about start-up ISVs. Adrian is a specialist in high growth SAAS, enterprise software and companies wanting entry into new markets.

Q: To start, could you tell us about the main differences between a start-up and an established ISV in the ecosystem?

A: It can be difficult sometimes to distinguish a true start-up from a more established ISV. There are the obvious large ISVs who are public and have been in business for many years. Start-up can range from less than 10 employees to several hundred. I classify a start-up as a start-up until the company has some kind of exit event (sale, IPO, merger, closes down). An event that affects the ownership of the company i.e., stock options)

Q: What would you say are the main career benefits when working for a start-up ISV?

A: Challenging, exciting, frustrating, scary, risky, satisfying are all parts of working for a start-up ISV. This is especially the case for very early-stage companies. It is not an environment that everyone thrives in. But for those that take the plunge and the risk, the career rewards can be great.

You get to do many things and make great connections. In a very small start-up, your actions and achievements can make a real difference to the company’s success and value. This is a very rewarding aspect of working for a start-up.

People move around from company to company in the start-up world. Your connections at one company can lead to working with the same people at the next.

Q: In contrast to the above, are there any challenges when it comes to working in a start-up environment? How can these challenges be overcome?

A: As mentioned above, start-ups are challenging, exciting, frustrating, scary, risky, and satisfying, all wrapped into one career experience. Being positive and flexible and particularly able to adapt to change are key qualities you will need to develop.

Start-ups are very much a team effort so it is important you believe in the company and work with others as a team to achieve success.

Whilst working for a start-up ISV is not easy, the upsides both career and financially can be greater than working for more established companies.

Q: In your opinion, are there any particular skills people looking to work for a startup ISV should focus on?

A: Strong knowledge of the particular skill set required for the role they are hiring for is of course important. But having an entrepreneurial spirit and a ‘get the job done’ with minimal oversight and guidance attitude is also key.

In a small start-up, having the personality to fit into the team is a big factor as one bad apple can really affect the company negatively. This is not so much the case in larger companies.

Q: What is the main piece of advice you would give those looking for a role within a start-up ISV?

A: Before applying, ask yourself if you have the temperament for a startup. There is more risk involved than working for well-established companies. Realize you may be looking for another job within a year or two if things don’t go well.

Understand that most start-ups fail!

Q: Having worked for multiple ISVs during your career, is there anything you think people should consider when looking for their next role?

A: I look for small start-ups that have great technology ideas. Most likely the product is not fully baked, but I can see a market fit or gap the product fills. This tells me that there is a real market opportunity to grow the company and be successful. You also have to believe in the product, the company’s management team, and growth plans. If you are confident this is the case and you are willing to take a risk, go for it!

Q: How can someone interviewing for a start-up ISV stand out from the crowd?

A: Research the company thoroughly, understand their market, and be able to talk intelligently about the product. I have interviewed many candidates where it is clear they don’t know what the company does on the first interview. Those candidates don’t move forward. Also, be able to clearly articulate the value you and your skillset bring to the company and how you can help make a difference.

Q: Finally, are there any emerging ISVs that you are excited to watch?

A: The great thing about the Salesforce ecosystem is that there are many exciting start-ups at all different stages of growth, with new ones constantly emerging. Start-ups that fit into the areas that Salesforce is growing fastest in and fill a real business need that Salesforce does not cover, tend to be the sweet spot. Verticals like financial services and healthcare are growing faster than some others. Security and salesforce management products are also in great demand.

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