Here’s the deal with Biz Dev (Part I)

Saeed has posted two fairly provocative items about business development. (Here are the first and the second.) Frankly, Saeed, you’re not following your own advice. To paraphrase you, “Enough with the missives about Biz Dev”.

If you’re getting annoyed by what’s going on in your company, then you have two choices — help fix it, or move on. There are a couple of other choices actually, such as do nothing, or complain about it on your blog, but to be honest, if that’s what you do, then you’re not as great a product manager as you think you are.


Certainly it’s easy to poke a stick at biz dev, and I could tell a few stories of my own. Several years ago, Intel was courting my CEO to have us port my product line to the Itanium chip, and thankfully I got to meet the Intel guy with my CEO for espresso at the old Starbucks by Moscone before we committed to anything. We were interested seeing what Intel might offer us, and my CEO really wanted to ink a deal with them. As Saeed said, it was “strategic”, and the Intel logo would look really great on our investor slide deck, or so our CEO felt. As is well known, the Itanium chip was a failure. Thankfully we didn’t invest.

In fact when we poked at Intel’s proposal, we found that the market for our product on Itanium would have been tiny; it would have been a tool to help people writing apps directly to the Intel metal, a specious group who wasn’t likely to increase our revenue. I suggested that Intel could pay a very large sum for our source code with an exclusive license on its doomed chip, but Intel didn’t bite. At that point our CEO saw that the logo on the Powerpoint slide wasn’t worth the distraction.

But I have also seen business development add major value to a company. When I was at Wily Technology, I saw how business development could be used strategically to strap a rocket to the company and create the engine for the company’s phenomenal growth. (And it was phenomenal. Eventually we were acquired for $375M, greatly exceeding the multiples of our peer group.)
What’s the difference between Saeed’s experience with BD and the Wily success story? It boils down to strategy, alignment, and value creation.

I’ll elaborate in future posts on this topic, so please stay tuned.

2 responses to “Here’s the deal with Biz Dev (Part I)

  1. Alan, we’re in violent agreement.

    It *is* all about strategy, alignment and value creation. When working in a market-driven products company, it becomes difficult to have a sales-driven BizDev function that regularly wants to go off the roadmap with deals of questionable value. That was the whole point of my postings.

    My current company doesn’t have the problems with BizDev that my previous companies had. It’s a pretty rational company and there is a general sense of alignment. Product Management is included in the BizDev process.

    As for not taking my own advice — if I were throwing insults at other functions, you’d be correct. But I’m not, and thus respectively, you’re not. Identifying the problem is the first step in solving it. My intent was to help others who may be in situations similar to those I had in previous companies. Based on the comments from the readers, there was some agreement to what I said, though clearly in sales-driven companies, BizDev can be a force for significant value creation.


  2. I think your critique of most BD is fair and accurate. Just having a little fun with you, that’s all. 😉