The Albeo team spent a day this week with a very large furniture manufacturer that is considering replacing the fluorescent fixtures in their furniture with LED fixtures. They have been actively researching LED fixture companies and have visited several to help identify one with which to engage.
Early in their investigation they discovered that LED innovation is not coming from large, established lighting manufacturers but from small startups like Albeo. (I'll describe the reasons for this in a later post.) Since they are a manufacturing powerhouse, they have a healthy concern about partnering with a small company that is new to manufacturing, and they brought along a supply chain management representative specifically to characterize that risk.
The day was pretty successful for Albeo, and a big part of that success is because we nailed that issue. Not because we have terrific manufacturing processes in place; we are truly a small company and we are still developing these methods. However, our manufacturing guys were very effective in showing this potential customer that we know what terrific manufacturing processes are and we are on the road to implement them. In other words, we showed them that we are a big company in the making; we have been there before and we know how to get there.
We clearly impressed them, and it really made me wonder what they saw when they visited our competitors. To me, this doesn't seem like rocket science. To become a big company, you do the (good) things that big companies do, even when you're small.
David Cohen recently posted on his Colorado Startups blog about startup ideas, in which he made the point that it is rare for a successful startup to have a completely unique idea. Rather, startups typically have several competitors with similar ideas, and the successful ones just execute better. In his words, "embrace competition, then go kick some ass. Do it better, smarter, or make it easier."
To me, a big part of that is acting like you've been there before.