What is Business Development for Early Stage Companies?

When talking with early stage companies we find a fair bit of confusion as to what exactly Business Development is. It means different things to different people and it takes different forms for different companies. What is the difference between sales marketing and BD?

The base definition is that sales is asking another party for money and that BD is forming partnerships, with caveats that opening a new market or business line may start under BD. We subscribe to a slightly different line of demarcation that I find operationally helpful, particularly in building out your teams. I like to start by examining two questions for each company: How do you make money? How can you significantly accelerate growth? If the answer is relationship based ‘selling’ as opposed to high volume transactions, than you are likely looking for BD professionals. If it is high volume, then you are likely building out a sales team. That said, a sales organization, or a low value transaction driven by a marketing organization can frequently benefit from channel partnership, another sweet spot of the, relationship based, BD professional.

At Fulton Waters we take a slightly broader definition than many. Are there companies that, if you had a team member who could walk you in to the right person, you could see a meaningful impact on your growth rate. This is what we focus on with a network of vertically focused professionals with 15–30 years experience, and connections to leverage. Some examples of different BD opportunities we have seen include:

· A B2C mobile content company that can grow their user base by preinstalling their application on smart phones.

· A hospital grade wearable device that is looking for partnerships to expand into the consumer market.

· A sales or marketing platform that could sign a deal with a major US cruise line.

· A social engagement tool that could be resold by digital agencies.

As you can see, BD means something different to each of these companies. The common themes are that, they are opportunities to deliver rapid growth, and they happen through relationships.