I've been having some great conversations over the past few weeks about the function lovingly known as "bizdev." I've carried the Business Development title for the past 4 years and have developed some fairly strong feelings on the subject. Of course I develop fairly strong feelings on just about every subject... be that as it may... I think titles and names are important because in a well-built organization, a well-built business, these names help communicate responsibility. And in the heavily-matrixed, overly-flat land of Valley companies, efficient communication is required for success. The easiest way for me to dissect this topic is by first defining what bizdev is not, but is often found dressing up as...
Is bizdev Sales?
Oftentimes bizdev is code for 'Sales.' In many Valley companies there's a stigma attached to Sales. Sales is dirty. It's for money-grubbers. It's cheesy. Oh, and it just so happens to be the engine that turns software into revenue. Bizdev is not Sales. Sales is Sales. If you have a product (be it a widget, a gizmo or a thingy) and want to sell it over and over and over again it's called Sales.
Is bizdev Content Acquisition?
As traditional media started to flow online, acquiring 3rd party content and aggregating it for an audience has become a core function. But again, Content Acquisition is not bizdev. Content Acquisition is, well, Content Acquisition. Technically I suppose this is a Supplier or Vendor function... but content owners probably wouldn't care for the term Vendor.
Is bizdev Audience Aggregation? Or Distribution?
You see where this is going, right? Growing audience is a Marketing function. If you have software that nobody's looking at you have to Market it. Now, you can choose to Market your software directly to consumers or indirectly by neatly fitting into the value chain of other businesses. But either way this activity has name, and thy name is Marketing.
So what about all that Affiliate or API Platform stuff?
See, these things have names too. That's why they're capitalized.
So what pray tell is bizdev?
It isn't. It isn't a function. In one sense it's a task, a line item: write great term sheets that get fully executed. For a moderately large business with several products and product managers who face completely inwards towards engineering there *may* be a need for a dedicated bizdevver. He facilitates and negotiates, 'does the deal' and moves on. He gets the product need, understands the partner's requirements and manages them both. But really I would argue that if your Product Manager can't do this, you might want to find one who can.
In another sense it is everything. Developing the Business should really be the purview of a good Product or General Manager. It's the ability to tackle complicated partnerships to further your product goals. It's the art of creating true synthesis with an outside party. It's being able to see where your product needs augmentation. And most importantly it's the authority to say 'No. No Thank You.' to the myriad requests you receive every day from Others Out There. Those masses who want something from you but don't know what you're trying to accomplish. Those folks who will, if allowed to, consume every cycle of your company's time with endless games of ping-pong.
So any way you look at it, bizdev is an extension of Product. It either subsumes Product as General Management or it serves Product as an infrequent task. At least that's what I think. You?