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From Chicago Startup to Acquisition: The Ultimate Guide

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From Chicago Startup to Acquisition: The Ultimate Guide

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Open Kernel Labs, a Chicago-based emerging tech company, was recently acquired by General Dynamics. The company went from startup to acquisition in just six years. Here, Marti Konstant, OK Labs’ vice president of marketing, shares some of the lessons learned from this journey.  

  Look for technology adoption stories that can be emulated. OK Labs needed to educate and make a market, while creating demand for software virtualization. We looked at successful technologies like desktop virtualization and server virtualization, and bet that security concerns would move from the center of networks to mobile device endpoints.
 
Work with partners and industry analysts to create awareness of something new. If you come to the market with a technology that no one knows they need, work with industry analysts like Gartner to help identify the space. Smartphone virtualization quickly became mobile virtualization, a phrase adopted by journalists and editors.
 
Be nimble; test and pivot like a lean startup. Six years ago, business was not interested in security for mobile phones. We pitched mass-market smartphones to support one of the additional benefits of mobile virtualization -- the manufacture of cheaper phones --  but did not garner significant traction. We refocused on security just as interest in security was increasing.
 
Focus on one vertical market before tackling three. Our Microvisor security applied to at least five verticals, but we focused on mobile/wireless first before heading into automotive and federal (advice compliments of technology consultant Geoffrey Moore in Crossing the Chasm).
 
Pay attention to overarching industry trends. We focused on Bring your Own Device, and dual-persona smartphones for business, areas where securing smartphones were highly relevant. These trends were non-existent when we started the company, yet they continue to play a significant role in the future of mobile virtualization adoption.
 
Pay attention to historical technology success. Internet started in DARPA and products like microwaves and satellite dishes were proven in federal space before being broadly adopted across enterprise and consumer segments. Rather than focus on enterprise IT for B2B adoption, we focused on federal & government markets, and reasoned that if our security solution is valued for defense–grade mobile security, it will be trusted by the enterprise.
 
Focus on marketplace events. President Obama is the first president to carry a smartphone. HisBlackberry was customized for security. If industry replicated this custom-built model, it would be cost-prohibitive for businesses and the consumer. We embedded the OKL4 Microvisor on commercially-available devices, making them highly secure and bringing the manufacturing costs way down.

Create a memorable B2B brand. We created a brand that was accessible and welcoming to the global market and highly differentiated from our competitors. We launched a user community, a Geek TV channel, and created a brand mascot that we affectionately call Iggy. His flickr stream is on our community page. 

Marti Konstant, a tech enthusiast with a passion for kickstarting market demand for B2B tech companies, leads her company’s efforts in brand differentiation and demand generation. She is also founder of the country’s first Marketing Hackathon, #marketinghack chat, and the Agile Marketing Learning Channel, all accessible through her blog. @martikonstant

Related Topics Guest Post, Marketing, Acquisitions
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