16 January 2008

Barney Relationships

How many times have you been told by a bubbling senior executive of a high potential company about a relationship they have just signed with Bigco. She tells you how that relationship itself validates the value proposition of her company. And you probably believe it. After all, Bigco is a household name with legions of very smart executives who have their pick of the litter of companies with whom they could affiliate. In fact it’s not just one relationship with one Bigco that the company has rung up. In fact they have four or five with several different Bigco-like companies. Sounds impressive.

A good friend of mine, Gordon Rapkin who is currently CEO of an really cool data security firm in Stamford, CT – Protegrity, puts these kind of relationships into perspective. He calls these Barney relationships.

Depending upon your age, you either grew up with kids who were familiar with Barney the purple dinosaur, or perhaps you were a Barney fan yourself. Barney is this loveable character who caters to youngsters. You may recall Barney’s theme song. It included the words that Gordon was referring to:

I love you, you love me ….

I’m sure you can probably hum the tune.

In any case while these relationships may in fact be interesting or may even be predecessors to a more serious relationship, they are not equivalent to real market traction, unless that love also amounts to money changing hands. So while we all can all celebrate these successes, we should be very careful to realize that Barney relationships are not a proxy for a real sales or for tangible market penetration.

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