The Value of Listening

Some of the smartest people we've met work in the infrastructure business. It's one of the things that makes working in this space interesting. But sometimes smart people can act really dumb. For a year we've been knocking on the door (through e-mail) of the CEO of an infrastructure startup that's working in an area that we're very familiar with. As you could imagine, we're big advocates of research as a key part of building a successful high tech company — we've been doing this for nearly 20 years, we've written a book about the role research plays in strategic planning — we really believe this. But each time we have reached out to this CEO to provide a little free advice based on some of the work we've been doing he tells us words to the effect — don't bother me now, come back when we're successful and we'll talk then. That's totally backwards. Research is something you do to help a business to succeed. It's not a veneer that you put on after the fact. We've found that there's no substitute for listening to the market — in today's world there are few "greenfields" — you've got to first fit in and then stand out. And only the market can tell you what that means.

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