Tanya Houseman - User Advocate + Content Strategist
Helping people find what they're looking for
Columbia University.png

Columbia Capstone

A startup gets a go-to-market plan

Wiser (formerly Delve News), is a for-profit, news technology startup headquartered in New York City. Its enterprise content platform reached a critical juncture in its product development and needed go-to-market strategy on how to capture Fortune 500 markets to secure Series A funding.

My role

I led the research into integrating knowledge tools into mature enterprise environments, including governance, security, return-on-investment (ROI) and training and support, focusing on Michael Porter’s Five Forces to analyze this competitive market. My research also covered the technical requirements that Wiser would need to enter the Fortune 500 corporate environment.

Skills

User Research, Writing, Editing, Presentation Development, Presentation, Visual Design, Strategy, Project Planning

Software

PowerPoint, Microsoft Office, PhotoShop

The Challenge

Wiser (formerly Delve News), founded in 2012, is a for-profit, news technology startup headquartered in New York City. Wiser has developed and launched an information discovery and collaboration platform that offers organizations a central, yet connected, means to explore, curate, and share context-relevant news. The product offers an advanced algorithmic recommendation engine that selects pertinent information from thousands of news sources, and leverages the social power of organizational networks to facilitate insight, learning, and action.

Wiser reached a critical juncture in its product development and go-to-market strategy. To secure Series A funding, it needed to show how it could implement its platform in Fortune 500 companies.

Initial development and marketing focused on the needs of knowledge workers and teams in smaller enterprises, such as public relations and investment research firms. Wiser has conducted extensive interviews, and created user profiles, but had no experience and insight into the information technology departments within large organizations, or how employees at a large organization would use the platform.

Through Columbia University’s Master's of Science in information and digital strategy, my team partner and I developed a cogent value proposition and coherent product and market strategy for implementing the platform in larger Fortune 500 organizations.

Research

This required a thorough understanding of how these organizations discover, curate and use commercial awareness and competitive intelligence information today, identifying which tools and processes these companies use, and how leadership makes investment decisions about information tools. To accomplish this, the we conducted primary and secondary research across a select group of Fortune 500 and presented findings in a written report(s) and a presentation.

Wiser already had developed five provisional “personas” for its platform:

For primary research, the Columbia team interviewed 22 executive, midlevel managers, and junior consultants in Fortune 500 companies. The industries included biotech, manufacturing, technology, consulting, food, banking, and insurance.

For secondary research, the team referenced Gartner, Forrester, McKinsey reports, Tim Powell’s Value Chain, and other information.

Competitive/comparative Analysis

According to Wiser, its competitors in the marketplace was Flud, a mobile news ecosystem with a vision to empower its users to interact with each other to access broadcast content. At the time we were writing our Capstone report, Flud had closed its door. However similar Wiser was to Flud, Wiser felt it could learn from Flud’s challenges, such as trying to target social content for the public instead of focusing on the enterprise market.

Another competitor Wiser identified is FirstRain, which positions its offerings as business analytics. FirstRain is already established in the Fortune 500 sandbox, with data scientists, UX designers and resources that provide proprietary content when the user needs it.

What I Learned

More than 60 percent of start-ups fail, and it's easy to see why: they often do not have the time or runway to plan strategically for where their market fit is. In Wiser’s case, it had 10 employees who worked on projects that pertained to their current customer base – using white label projects that did not fit into its Fortune 500 strategic plan, but did “pay the bills.” Working on initiatives such as security reviews and API integration may be out of scope for a small staff.

Had I more experience in User Design, I would have revised Wiser’s personas, and integrated more usability testing to gather more information. Positioning itself against FirstRain is a David and Goliath scenario, and therefore, it still needs more research into where its perfect fit is for the resources it has.

Next Steps

Our “go-to-market” strategy recommended that Wiser provide proprietary user content that the average knowledge worker can’t find through general consumer browsers (such as Google or Bing). It's also important for working with Fortune 500 companies is being able to pass a security review, typically administered by a company’s IT department.

Companies are increasingly concerned with security, and are scrutinizing third-party, cloud-based platforms such as Wiser. Currently Wiser targets HR or marketing departments, who do not go through their IT departments through reviews, and this is a weakness that they must address. Also, integrating with a company’s API behind firewalls is also imperative if the company wants to secure contracts with Fortune 500 companies.

For large corporations, there is also a process for vendor approval which can take up to six months or longer. Many start-ups have runways of only six to eight months, so it’s difficult to wait for corporate contracts, and scale up when the work is procured.

And lastly, for all start-ups: while it's important to focus on work that pays the bills, it's important to look beyond the runway and follow a strategy that will deliver long-term success.

Columbia University.png
JourneyMap.jpg
Research.png