Startups greatly influence the zeitgeist and business culture today, and enterprise leaders know they must embrace change to survive. Some large companies will innovate internally while others look outside for new ideas, but all crave new technology that can solve problems at scale. This is especially true in the cable industry, which is undergoing a transformation that brings big challenges and even bigger opportunities.
Cord cutting, increased data consumption, regulatory changes, and consolidation are all altering the cable landscape right now. With so many dependencies and integrations to consider throughout their networks, cable operators can take time to adopt new solutions. And long, multifaceted enterprise sales cycles can be tough on eager startups looking to gain traction fast.
In video, though, buyers on the other side of the table tend to understand where startups are coming from, with many cable companies having been launched in garages or basements by similarly intrepid founders. And when they do sign on, these companies can bring incredible scale.
Startup accelerator programs have exploded over the last decade, popping up all over the world to help new companies find a path to product-market fit. Unfortunately, disappointing overall outcomes produced by the majority of accelerators have caused many to reconsider the model. Emerging, next-generation accelerators tend to be more focused, typically aligning with a large corporate sponsor or industry to solve a specific set of problems.
This widespread change in strategy follows the realization across the entrepreneurial ecosystem that conventional startup accelerators are designed to accelerate only the “starting up” phase of the process. When two people with an idea go through an accelerator, they may graduate with a minimum viable product and some venture investment, but no large enterprise can actually buy or deploy that MVP.
The accelerator-2.0 trend has entered the cable business in the form of the UpRamp Fiterator programme, created by CableLabs, the global innovation consortium of cable and broadband operators. The team designing the programme was conscious of the mismatch between the ambitious (but at times misguided) output of the original accelerator model and the real needs of large enterprises wanting to adopt innovation. UpRamp set out to help startups hone product-market fit and actually achieve adoption with CableLabs member companies around the world.
UpRamp promises “deals, not demos” — but beneath the hype, it takes a very pragmatic, almost cynical approach to the sales process. The truth is it’s just plain hard for small companies to do deals with big companies. Many startup founders think closing a major contract comes down to luck, connections, divine inspiration, an especially skilled salesperson, or an undeniably perfect product. But, in reality, business development is a collaborative process, requiring ongoing engagement with the customer.
Locking up a dream customer can also depend on timing and culture. To succeed, strategically aligned accelerators can’t just run a sales process; they must also address the innovation culture of their industry. To that end, the UpRamp team isn’t just facilitating interactions between startups and executives, but it’s also issuing a call to action for the entire cable industry.
The four companies selected to participate in UpRamp speak to some of the key priorities in the space, from content discovery across multiple apps and Wi-Fi connectivity in crowds to better mobile internet and the ability to anticipate network problems before customers call to complain. Instead of making educated guesses about how their solutions will apply to the cable business, these companies are getting guidance straight from expert industry mentors.
As industry-specific accelerator programs like UpRamp continue to evolve — running iterative cycles for better alignment between participating companies and the problems they address — the next breakthrough you read about may originate in one of these programs. New voices and vendors are coming to the video vertical, and everyone is asking the same questions about the future of entertainment: What type of content will people enjoy, and how will it be delivered?
We believe those answers could come from a startup rather than a household name. But we also believe that the two working together will accelerate the pace of bringing those ideas to a much larger audience.
More details on UpRamp here.