If AOL represented the first wave of the Internet, and Google and Facebook represent the 2nd wave, what will the 3rd wave look like?

If you are a budding entrepreneur you need to understand the ways that emerging companies will be built and what type of playbook is required to ensure success. The playbooks used yesterday in prior waves will not be relevant tomorrow. Every business is in search of the most effective path to success. Meander around utilizing outdated techniques and you waste valuable resources (time and money).

This is even more critical in geographic areas that are capital constrained; which in effect provide you less time to execute a successful growth strategy. Where Silicon Valley was the only destination for technology-based startups for the past 30 years, the necessity for one to migrate there is decreasing. I live this every day in Raleigh-Durham but the same can be said for Atlanta, St. Louis, Dallas, LA, Miami, Chicago and many 3rd tier communities.

So what does an entrepreneur operating outside the capital-rich confines of California run need to run tomorrow’s playbook?


I have written many times how you need to build credibility in order to secure capital, customers and hire trailblazing employees. For first-time founders this can be very hard and is exacerbated the more remote you operate.

My playbook starts with developing customers through a multi-channel customer acquisition strategy. For some businesses this can be both capital-intensive and time-consuming. When founders (potential investments) arrive at The Startup Factory, the first filter we apply is how difficult will it be to acquire a minimum level of customer traction?

One path to a more efficient customer acquisition strategy is to find partners who already have those relationships. Relationships equal credibility. So you can take months or years to get to a point (and own it all) or you can fast track your company by partnering (and give up a few points).

I find too many founders unwilling to consider all of the options available to them for growing their company. This reeks of either ignorance or arrogance; neither is a character trait worthy of a great CEO. Your sole task is to chart a strategy that most effectively grows your company. Why would you not consider a partnership as one vehicle?

Not sure where to start? This exercise can be as simple as mapping out all of the players in and around your business. Who touches the transaction directly or indirectly? Who would benefit by your product or service? Who would be hurt by your taking away that dollar that used to flow to them? Grab an hour or so with your co-founder, senior staff or advisors and head to the white board and map it out. Then brainstorm on all the ways where they could benefit from your product/service. Who knows what you might find once you have to guts to reach out to them.