Startup Roots & Enterprise Aspirations

Brandon Metcalf   May 21, 2017  

Over the past three years, Talent Rover has grown 2600%, but it has certainly created some challenges. For the past nine months, we have struggled with delivery. Our challenges are not uncommon among tech companies growing at this pace. But, we’re not willing to settle for common results and are rethinking how we deliver software to clients. As we anticipate more than doubling revenue again this year, how can we achieve the level of service we provided in the past?

As I shared a few months ago, bringing on The Adecco Group was a big leap for Talent Rover. I must admit, it was intimidating. We have about 125 employees globally – they have 30,000 employees, 5,100 branch offices in 60 countries. Did we set ourselves up to fail? Could we balance their needs with our mid-size customers’?

We raised more capital and hired more people, but we still couldn’t keep up. Finding top talent is tough, training takes too long, and people job-hop today more than ever. New hires idealize startup life and then discover it’s the wrong fit (5 Things you Should Know Before Working at a Startup).

We brainstormed about how to bridge the gap between our startup roots and enterprise aspirations. To solve our dilemma, we formed a strategic partnership with Accenture. They are now Talent Rover’s official partner for global deployment and will accelerate product development. 

Accenture has a history of managing large-scale deployments and aggressive product roadmaps. They ensure that we can deliver our platform to any firm, of any size, anywhere in the world. They’re also accelerating our path to artificial intelligence and other innovations that will transform staffing and recruitment.

At first glance, our partnership could seem a bit odd. Accenture is a Fortune 500 professional services firm with nearly 400,000 employees. We feel it’s a perfect match and the tech world will see many more partnerships like ours. I’ll explain the rationale. 

Startups and enterprises have complementary strengths. Well-run startups move quickly, spend little, and experiment aggressively. They have the freedom to take risks that a multibillion-dollar company cannot. Startup customers expect change and accept a degree of uncertainty. They choose to be out on the edge where competitors are afraid to tread.

Conversely, enterprises amass institutional knowledge, field-test best practices, and master execution. That’s how they grow so large. They look at projects of any size and complexity and know how to execute. Their customers expect consistency and stability, and they deliver. 

You can see why startup-enterprise partnerships make sense. It’s like any Hollywood movie where the old veteran and young gun join forces. Think of Men in Black, for example. Tommy Lee Jones’ character has seen it all and shows his protégé the way. Will Smith’s character has seen nothing and therefore does the ‘impossible.’ The balance of know-how and daring makes them a powerful team.

Accenture brings experience, best practices, and manpower we lack. They can anticipate what can go wrong in deployment and why software should be implemented one way versus another. Talent Rover brings a new approach to recruiting technology, a philosophy and set of workflows we dreamed up on the desk.

I anticipate that we’ll see other models of startup-enterprise partnership in the coming years. Three models seem especially promising: 

1.  The Scaling Partnership. This is how I’d classify our relationship with Accenture. They are accelerating our technology to Fortune 500 scale. In this model, a startup develops a product, and a larger company optimizes it for enterprise commercialization. The larger company also contributes its brainpower and IT resources to the startup’s roadmap. Off the bat, Accenture is helping us move from semi-custom deployments to a ‘turnkey’ method. 

2.  The Spinout Partnership. In this case, a large company develops new technology but can’t commercialize it optimally. Perhaps the technology falls into markets that enterprise is unprepared to enter. Or, maybe the company doesn’t have teams that can brand, iterate, and hustle like a startup. Thus, the enterprise licenses the technology to a newly formed startup in a joint venture. The startup, led by a proven team and bolstered by the commercial connections of the enterprise, has better odds of success.

3.  The Acquisition Partnership. Some enterprises acquire startups thinking their staff will continue to operate in startup mode. The results are mixed. Under bureaucratic processes, risk-management rules, and conservative branding guidelines, the startup risks losing momentum. It struggles to preserve the culture that made it successful. The Acquisition Partnership should take on a holding-company approach, allowing the startup to operate independently with resources from the acquirer. Waze is a good example. It has remained autonomous under Google’s ownership, but can that persist? Will Waze and Google Maps become one product? We’ll see. 

To claim that one partnership model surpasses the others would be misleading. It depends on the context. For now, I appreciate the Scaling Partnership because it keeps Talent Rover hungry and it allows us to retain our company culture. We can continue to make bold, experimental choices while we are enabled to better serve more mid-size clients and enterprises than ever before. It also lets us focus on what we do best, develop game-changing products. Our biggest competitive advantage is our understanding of the recruitment industry and how to best design a product that maximizes our customers' efficiency.

We struggled to keep up with demand, we heard your feedback, and we developed a partnership that addresses our shortcomings. We’re marrying startup technology to consulting methodology. We have high hopes for next nine months and appreciate our customers' understanding.