Technology for the future: stop letting your emotions choose your startup’s tech stack

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Salesforce:how to choose your tech stack

Modern technology has given us incredible tools to run and grow a business. But it has also given many startup founders sleepless nights. Deciding which technology to use to build, grow and scale your business is crucial. Choosing the right tools early on can save founders a lot of headaches – and money – in the future.

The challenges for startups and scaleups

‘How’s business?’ It’s a simple question I get to ask founders of startups almost every day. The answers vary, but I’ve noticed they always boil down to three main topics that keep founders up at night or busy during the day. 

First, there is the product or service they are offering. Developing a product, bringing it to the market, tweaking it to serve the audience better is what made most people start their business. It means finding a purpose as a company, which is a monumental effort for any early stage company. Usually, this goes a lot easier or faster if there is a big bag of cash available. That is why funding is also often a challenge for founders. Finding money to grow, with the right investors, takes a lot of time and effort.

The third thing many founders are struggling with early on is finding the right tech stack. Never before has there been such a wide array of technology available. Developing and building a product is usually an internal affair, but once ready it needs to be deployed to the market. That’s where the IT infrastructure also comes in. Carefully choosing the right solution early on is crucial for success.

Choose your tech wisely

When you look at the main reasons startups fail, they almost always have something to do with one of the above reasons. A product that is hard to develop or won’t find a market. A lack of funding, impeding growth. But we also see startups failing because they don’t have the tech stack allowing them to scale up once the time presents itself. Or, for example, because they don’t have the infrastructure in place to serve that all-important, very first enterprise customer.

If the past two years have proven anything, it is that businesses need to be incredibly agile. The most successful businesses during the pandemic were the ones that quickly adopted the new normal and maintained business as usual. This means reimagining revenue streams, operating models and even the organisational structure when working from home became the norm overnight. COVID may have brought these issues to the surface, but being able to quickly adapt to a changing environment has always been essential for startups.

Keep the growth going

Many founders, I noticed, have an inward view of their company. It is normal for founders of new companies to focus mostly on their day to day tasks. Many need to divide their time over lots of responsibilities. This leaves them being stuck in operations of building their company, rather than preparing for when that actual growth is happening. Especially in the very early stages, there seems to be no urgency to think about future challenges. You don’t really feel pain as an entrepreneur if you’re growing 1000 per cent YoY.

Ronald de Haan, Senior Account Executive – Venture Capital at Salesforce

But how are you going to keep up that level of growth? How will you retain an overview of your customer’s needs and interests not just locally, but in two, three, twenty different countries? How will you be able to deliver the best possible customer experience to not just your first ten customers, but also to the 10,000 that follow after that without having to turn your business upside down? In my experience, only ten per cent of the founders think about those long-term challenges. They want to make sure everything, including their tech stack, is ready before they start to grow. And those founders are usually the most successful ones.

How to ensure scalability is built-in 

So how do you choose the right tech for your stack? It is important to look at the return on investment of the technology you’re considering. Figuring that out can be tricky. The cost of software expands over more than just the licensing, but also includes hours spent on training and implementing the solution. And determining the returns, especially in the long run, can be complicated. It’s why founders often take the easy way and choose point solutions. 

My advice is: don’t be hesitant to ask any technology partner about the ROI of their entire product. Every platform has a return on investment. Even the platforms where it is very hard to see. Make sure you fully understand the returns a platform can give you in the long term. If it is not entirely clear, accept that it might not be the solution for you. By letting ROI be leading, you can ensure that scalability is built-in.

All-in-one CRM solution for MEWS

It worked for hospitality startup MEWS, which offers a platform for hotel owners to manage everything regarding their business. Their founder, Matt Welle, said in an earlier interview that for their CRM, they really wanted to work with innovative, young partners that embraced the same youthful, innovative mindset as their business. A choice based on emotion, which meant that for a while, MEWS spent a lot of time and energy connecting the dots between a plethora of systems that weren’t designed to work together. Once they made the switch to Salesforce, everything started to make more sense. MEWS is now well on its way to becoming the next unicorn.

Having a complete CRM platform greatly improved the scalability of MEWS. And just because it is complete doesn’t mean it is hard to implement. At Dutch medtech scaleup Castor they made the switch to Salesforce just this year. Their platform allows scientists all over the world to gather and integrate clinical data from any source on one platform. Implementing the Salesforce platform and making it work seamlessly with their existing services for their entire organisation took only 10 weeks.

If founders are able to thoroughly plan the coming five years for their startup, they will make more informed decisions on the technology they use. That also means, opening themselves up for outside expertise. We see that when it comes to selecting IT infrastructure, customers want to lead the process. These startups are uniquely qualified to build their own product, but founders should acknowledge they also lack detailed information on other aspects of running businesses. Allowing yourself to use the expertise of vendors can make the difference between scaling up or tumbling down.

Find the right tech-partner to scale up with

I really want startups to think about scalability when shaping their tech stack. Having one complete platform is better than trying to figure out how to make ten different services work together. Making the right choices early on will allow startups to keep growing rapidly like Castor and MEWS are doing. They took advantage of the expertise an experienced vendor offered, went with a complete CRM-solution that integrates seamlessly and they are better off now. 

This article is written by Ronald de Haan. He is Senior Account Executive – Venture Capital at Salesforce, the worlds’ leading CRM software supplier. His job is to help his customers manage their customers. He is specifically working with startups, scaleups and VCs, in order to build future unicorns using Salesforce’s solutions. Are you a founder, or a VC? Read Salesforce’s handbook to learn more about what Salesforce can do to make your company or portfolio companies keep growing well into the future.