“Uncool” Is Not a Business Problem

By September 15, 2016 Strategy
James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause

How Cool is it to be a Gartner Cool Vendor?

So your company has been named a “cool vendor” in a recent Gartner report.  Once the celebration is over, you might want to pause to think about what does it really mean to be a cool vendor. What impact, if any, will this have (or should have) on your future?

What Does It Mean to be a Cool Vendor?

Gartner describes a Cool Vendor as typically a smaller, lesser-known technology or service provider that offers innovative and potentially game-changing and disruptive technology, business model, or service offering:

“Cool Vendors reports reflects IT products and services that we find interesting and innovative. … But vendors are not selected as Cool Vendors simply because they have interesting technology. It is mostly because of the growth and success of their company in using technology differently to solve customer problems resulting in tremendous traction.  And innovations can go beyond technology and include new business models such as the “freemium” model which was a Cool Vendor innovation.”

Of course, a question some ponder is whether the companies identified as having this potential were cool before Gartner said they were. How truly influential is the ‘Gartner factor’?

As a newly minted Cool Vendor, you hope that the Gartner report will grab the attention of industry analysts and journalists looking for the next big story about marketplace disruption. You might be able to leverage the report to get additional funding or connect with investors seeking a new investment opportunity. Or, perhaps, you see this a valuable stepping stone on the path to being acquired.

The Customer Perspective

But let’s take a short break from the high-fives and fist bumping, and pause to look at this from the point view of your potential customer—the end user.

While investors and potential buyers may be looking for a small cool vendor with a large—if risky—potential, end users may be looking for the exact opposite: a trustworthy company with sufficiently proven technology that will survive the harsh reality of growth and scale. They do not necessary see “cool” as a business need. When you say “cool”, they hear “risk.”

Uncool Isn’t a Business Problem

Being listed in Gartner’s Cool Vendor Report is an acknowledgement that you may be onto something. Something that Gartner believes is innovative, impactful and intriguing. But the hard work is only about to begin.

Remember: among the many challenges your potential customers have, “uncool” is probably not one of them. Solving complex business problems takes more than just a “cool” technology, which seldom reaches its full potential by itself.

You need to demonstrate that you understand the real business problem and have the wherewithal—the business acumen, technology, and resources—to help your customer.

Image: James Dean in Rebel Without a Cause (1955)