What Does Business Development Mean at a Startup?

To reiterate what the Marketing and Communications Intern, Laney, explained in the last blog post – interning at AetherWorks does not consist of coffee-fetching and paper-sorting.

My title at AetherWorks is Venture Development Summer Associate, and this summer I’ve been devoting my time entirely to their current venture, AetherStore. My focus is on Business Development for AetherStore, but what exactly does someone do in this position?

The definition not only varies greatly depending on the size and type of startup, but it has become a catch-all phrase that seems to change depending on who you talk to. For me business development means continued, methodical innovation with the goal of growing business opportunities. I work with members of the product, marketing and engineering team to track key tasks and identify customers, manage the deal process, align roadmaps and launch strategies.

For an early stage startup like AetherStore, this is broken down into 3 main objectives:

1. Hypothesize

99% of all successful startup ideas start with an itch, or in the best-case scenario, with a problem that needs to be solved. Dropbox Founder, Drew Houston, was tired of having all his files scattered across his devices. Mark Zuckerberg wanted an easier way of connecting with other students at Harvard. This is where my work starts – identify a problem or “need” big enough that a customer is willing to pay for it, and find that customer. If the problem is not worth solving, create a new hypothesis and start testing that.  This might sound like a gross over simplification of Steven Blanks “the four steps to epiphany,” but at the end of the day what I do is a lot of customer development.

2. Analyze

Last summer working with an education-focused startup on campus, surrounded by thousands of students, I could simply walk out the door and start interviewing people about their problems and solutions. Working with a B2B product, customer development has definitely required more creativity and hard work – spending hours tracking people down on LinkedIn, cold emailing, and running around to NYC tech meetups. However, once you move past the first call, you begin to establish a working relationship with a customer.  You understand their job, their needs, and their problems. Key problems are highlighted and analysis is drawn to filter out the noise so the development team can focus on the right features and best integrations, and we can focus on the right partnerships and channels to deliver the best product experience possible.

3. Focus and Implement

Once we have collected enough information about a consumer segment and their problems, we can start to analyze the data and invalidate or validate our hypothesis, target markets, product features and partnerships. We can create validated strategies for taking AetherStore to market.  The kryptonite for any startup is a lack of focus. This hypothesis testing process ensures that the business team is always focused and doesn’t waste time building partnerships that are not adding value to our business or the consumer; and the development team doesn’t waste time building features that customers don’t want.

As AetherStore is about to release a beta we are all excited to start delivering the product to Early Adopters, and I can’t wait to see what the next half of this summer will bring!