3 Ways Startups are Disrupting the Enterprise

Last month, venture capitalist and leading Internet forecaster Mary Meeker produced her 20th annual Internet Trends report, yet again encapsulating several valuable insights on the current state of technology. Now a partner with Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, her latest publication includes all kinds of great observations, but what really caught my eye were her points about “re-imagining” enterprise computing (check out slides 28-45).


She talks about changing business process one segment at a time vs. trying to overhaul everything all at once, which makes a lot of sense. But the presentation also got me thinking about the broader approaches startups are using to entice companies to change their ways. If you look closely at the disruptive startups Meeker highlights in her presentation – from Gainsight, Slack and Zenefits, to Square, Stripe, Domo, Anaplan, etc. – you’ll notice some clear similarities in the methods they’re using to re-invent business processes.

Here are three valuable strategies we can learn from these examples:

Eliminate the Headaches of Connecting Disparate Systems
Anyone who’s worked in an enterprise (big or small) knows that the average employee relies on several different business applications to get their job done – everything from email, calendaring and office tools, to more specialized systems for things like bug tracking or design work. Slack is a great example of a company that saw the pain of a specific workflow (in this case, team communications), and found a way to reduce internal email traffic by connecting application silos in a slick messaging platform. It lets companies automatically pull in information and activity from all kinds of tools, like app monitoring, file sharing, code management, customer support, video conferencing, email marketing, social networking, and the list goes on.

Other solutions that bridge multiple systems to help businesses make better-informed decisions are Stripe for online payments and fraud detection, and Checkr for employee background checks.

Distill Information as Much as Possible
There’s no end of commentary about the information overload we’re all grappling with these days, so this is a big one Another startup that Meeker highlights in her report is Gainsight, which is tackling this problem by distilling granular product, support, community and marketing activity information down into one clear customer health score. A company’s support, sales and marketing people can leverage this customer success barometer to identify and address at-risk customers, while growing the lifetime value of healthy clients.

Many other startups are helping companies uncover additional bite-sized, actionable insights, like Domo, which makes it easy to compile and digest real-time business intelligence, and Greenhouse, which streamlines the hiring process for HR managers. Greenhouse gets structured feedback from all interviewers, and compiles it into simple candidate scorecards that illuminate possible knowledge gaps, mixed reviews from stakeholders, or other key factors that can help drive evidence-based hiring decisions.

Re-Invent Old-School Paper Processes
This one is an oldie but a goodie. Most companies still have a long way to go when it comes to eliminating manual, paper-based workflows, which is why startups that are easing this transition are doing so well. When it comes to HR, Zenefits has spurred massive process change with its free cloud-based software and easy-to-use solutions for managing and automating payroll, taxes, health insurance, time off and other benefits all in one place. As a result, the two-year-old company is already helping thousands of small businesses to dis-intermediate costly insurance brokers and change the way HR works for good.

Enterprise solutions like Anaplan are having a similar impact on spreadsheet-based planning processes, and Guidespark is achieving impressive HR results by helping companies replace paper manuals and pamphlets with customized videos on complex topics.

All of these disruptive startups are excellent illustrations of a quote that Meeker cites from Box CEO Aaron

And as Meeker points out, while consumer internet entrepreneurs often pursue personal passions, enterprise internet entrepreneurs tend to address prior company pain points. This was certainly true for me. I left Salesforce for Infer after a great 11-year run because I was excited about the opportunity for inside sales and marketing teams to work so much smarter by connecting various data sources, distilling information, and using predictive intelligence to inform decisions. If you’re in the enterprise software world, these themes should provide a helpful framework to evaluate how well-equipped your company is to truly transform work.

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