Five ways you can support B2B startups in your industry

How can you ensure you are really helping instead of virtue signalling?

Photo by Ravi Roshan on Unsplash


CyRise Demo Day for cohort 4 delivered on its promise last week. I thought it was fantastic, and I hope the companies who are now officially fellow CyRise portfolio companies get the support they ask for. More importantly, I hope they get the support that the people they have spoken to during the program have promised them.

Malcolm Turnbull during CyRise Demo Day 2020 for cohort 4 introductions
CyRise Demo Day supporters
AustCyber Website

Despite the natural instinct to accept all offers of assistance, especially if they could be a customer, one of the smartest things we can do as startup leaders is decide when to respectfully say: “thanks, but no thanks.”

Support versus advice

There’s a reason why the word “support” has been used in this context. Most people equate giving off-the-cuff advice to being supportive. I can tell you as someone being on the receiving end of both advice and support as an early stage startup that they are very different.

Reality check

A good startup leadership team spends all day everyday working on improving their business and trying to come up with the best solutions for the problem areas they focus on. It is highly unlikely that you’re going to be able to give them advice that is insightful without spending time understanding the reality of things, what the team has done, and what they plan on doing.

Impactful support

When the help is genuine, these are the ways (in order of increasing impact) I’ve found it to be most impactful.

1. Proactively introduce startups to other people who can help

There is no shortage of useful help that a startup can get, as long as it’s genuine. Even if you don’t think you can make as big of an impact to a particular startup due to your specific circumstances, you can still be helpful by introducing the startup to someone else who could either provide more targeted assistance, or even better, become a customer.

2. If a startup is tackling a problem you are trying to solve, help them get their product to a point where it literally solves your problem

There’s no substitute for real use cases that a startup can work towards to ensure the solution they are building will provide the intended value. If it’s your problem they are trying to solve, it’s a no-brainer win-win type of partnership that will emerge if you genuinely work with them to solve your problem.

3. Don’t treat a startup like one of the multi-national vendors you often kick around because you can

I understand the relationship and disdain that some organisations have towards their solution providers. It’s a significant enough challenge that the word “vendor” has become somewhat of a negative term. The reasons for this could generate a whole article, so I will refrain.

4. If you do decide to become a customer, help to expedite the procurement process

Procurement processes are painful, even when you are the one on the purchasing side. Of course, they exist for very good reasons so I’m in no way suggesting that startups should be exempt. The process is the process and should always be adhered to.

5. If you become a startup’s customer and you are happy with the value they provide, sing from the hills about how they helped you

Social proof is everything for a startup, particularly when we don’t have the strength of a large brand to stand behind. In most cases, the first anyone would have heard of a startup is the first time they interact with them.

Closing thoughts

The media will have you believe that the world of startups is glamorous. At times, it’s fun. It’s certainly not glamorous for most of us. It truly is one of the most difficult things to do in the world of business.

Cyber Risk. Cybersecurity. Business. Tech. Entrepreneur. CEO at Avertro. Former CTO at McAfee Asia Pacific.