Partner ecosystem – foster growth by sharing

Panama Business and Investment

Partnership (via thinkpanama, on Flickr)

Working in Online Video, I am enlightened daily by the amount of innovation going on in this space, and how much inter-company collaboration is going on. In the video industry, co-innovation is ingrained.

Consider how much technology is involved in taking the output of your HD cam and streaming it to your iPad:

  • content must be uploaded (quickly!)
  • Transcoding takes place to retrofit the source to any device (2048-by-1536 iPad/480-by-320 Palm Pre/1920-by-1080 HDTV) and format (no flash on iOS..)
  • Content tagging, via speech to text, for example, can take place in order to index it and make it searchable.
  • Recommendations based on the content are made to link other content items together.
  • Distribution to multiple platforms (youtube, hulu, itunes) or social sharing (Facebook, twitter, gigya, addThis)
  • Content delivery in high quality around the globe is also a profitable business.
Each and every one of the above has a whole business behind it. Most of the above bullet points are worth upwards of $100M (Akamai is $6.9B). Naturally, it can’t all be accomplished by a single company. In fact, video related innovation is happening every single day. These would not come to light if they had to do it all by themselves. Since video is involved, each relies on a platform, monetization and other components coming from other partners.
Since you cannot do it all, here is what to remember in order to encourage an ecosystem (whether being an active part of a larger pond, or fostering an ecosystem around your own platform)
  • Stay humble – you cannot top a category where your competitor has a laser focus on the solution. Instead, partner and provide a joint solution where each side brings the best technology. Yes, this will require some sort of revenue sharing/referral fee. It is always worth it, as both sides will grow. Carefully consider whether or not you need a base solution developed in-house, as opposed to a core integration of the best-in-breed.
    Of course, if it is your core-competency - fight to the death!
  • Make a public commitment to a stable API – no developer likes to work hard on an integration and later hear: “yeah.. we deprecated that API” – if you make the decision to move to a new API – don’t make it lightly, and make sure there is ample documentation and the “old” API is supported for a long, long time.
  • Documentation – have loads of it. It is very hard to make developers sit down and write documents, so try to find a middle ground – documented working examples. It is much more fun creating and documenting a simple demo page than a piece of code. Demo pages are more useful and practical, and they will get used by your QA as well.
  • Foster a community – gather your partners, nurture them by providing free education about your capabilities, take part in joint events, even host meetups and events. Contribute often to a common pool of knowledge, be responsive to criticism and adoptive of good suggestions.
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