And a nod from Gartner, the world's most admired technology industry analyst, might matter most.
In Anil Chawla's (pictured right) IBM days, recognition from Gartner was the ultimate validation for a product or tool. It meant the team was on the right track with a product, that it surely would serve clients well and make the company money.
And so when Chawla received a call last month that ArchiveSocial's social media archiving tool had been selected as one of five Cool Vendors in Government, he couldn't help but feel that same affirmation. But this time, it carried with it excitement and anticipation—ArchiveSocial is his first startup and, along with a team that includes sales and business development director Adam Tury (left, on bull), he's working tirelessly to make it a success.
"IBM is worried about what Gartner thinks. To have that same firm recognize a product we built from scratch as a startup is very meaningful," Chawla says.
The call wasn't entirely random. A year ago, Chawla did something he calls "a shot in the dark activity" (Details of another of those, here). While studying his industry, he learned of Gartner analysts focused on information management and archiving for government. He emailed the group to introduce ArchiveSocial's social media archiving tool. It could help governments sort through and manage city and public officials' social media activity (to fulfill public records requests and legal requirements) and provide an open data portal for use by citizens.
But there was no real outcome from his introductions until last month, when another analyst contacted Chawla after learning of ArchiveSocial from a colleague who received one of those early introductions.
Says Chawla: "It's a good reminder to me that the few times I've taken a breath (from the day-to-day operations of a startup) and reached out, it's really paid off."
So what makes a 'Cool Vendor?' Here's a video from Gartner describing it:
In a write up on ArchiveSocial, an analyst called it a best practice for government because ArchiveSocial makes it easier than previous methods to search and filter results spanning months and mimic the original records. It also allows for better government transparency—the tool is easy for citizens to use.
The report did note some drawbacks to ArchiveSocial being a startup. It's competing in a crowded and competitive market where incumbent records management vendors may have a leg up in government procurement processes. As the first in the industry to offer its specific tool, ArchiveSocial will have to continuously add new services and management beyond Facebook, Twitter, LInkedIn and YouTube, the report also noted.
But startup status hasn't deterred ArchiveSocial so far. In the five months since the team completed the Code for America accelerator in San Francisco, it has more than doubled the client base. New clients include the cities of San Francisco, Louisville and Charlotte, and soon, Durham City Schools. That's in addition to earlier clients like the city of Austin and the state of North Carolina. ArchiveSocial has powered the first open archive in the state since 2012.
To manage the growth, Chawla is hiring at least two staff—a software engineer and marketer. And so far, he's done it all with less than $200,000 in funding.
Chawla's story in many ways epitomizes the role of CEO at a startup. It's a person who can simultaneously do the mundane day-to-day work like updating a website, developing code, responding to emails and handling customer service issues, and also be aware enough of the broader landscape of an industry to make big picture bets even when they might seem like a long shot.
Chawla reminds us, "You have to do (the "shot in the dark activities") enough where some small percentage of that is going to come back and pay dividends."