Last December I wrote about Building B2B Technology Markets, looking at how to penetrate a market with almost none of the traditional characteristics of a mature technology market? As technology vendors increasingly look to emerging markets as a significant opportunity and source of growth, this question becomes more pressing.  The report explored some of the elements of Cisco’s Country Transformation initiatives in order to identify steps in the process of building market infrastructure:

For example, the report looked at partnering with governments to encourage market-friendly policies and investment in the necessary technology infrastructure to support market development and overall economic growth.  And, from a sales perspective, trade associations provided an alternative channel to reach small and medium businesses in markets where distributors and resellers weren't available.  

But, another element critical to successful market development is the ecosystem of partners developing solutions specific to the particular market, or even just contributing local innovation for new approaches to broader global issues.   Building B2B Technology Markets discussed finding local organizations to act as partners in the market, and even investing in educational initiatives, but missed the next step of how to help create these new local ecosystem partners. 

IBM recently announced their Global Entrepreneurship Program which goes a long way toward facilitating the development of local networks of innovation, and potential technology and business partners.  The program is only 2-weeks old but shows great promise in reaching out to local talent, and channeling it – in this case, toward a “smarter planet.”   According to Mike Riegel, VP of Marketing for IBM’s ISV and Developer Relations team, over 200 companies have applied in the past two weeks – and thousands more have gone to the website to check out the program.  The program offers private companies, less than three-years old:

  • Access to free software on-premise for development and testing, or in the “cloud” through Amazon Web Services (cloud access comes with production licenses as well)
  • Access to technical support from Project Resource Managers
  • Mentoring, networking and educational opportunities through SmartCamp events, IBM Innovation Centers, and access to other industry expertise.

The program “comes to life” through the SmartCamp events, which are exclusive networking and mentoring events aimed at identifying early stage entrepreneurs. The first phase of the program includes SmartCamps held mostly in mature markets, except for India.  But, the second phase expands the SmartCamps to more emerging markets with China, Brazil and Malaysia on the short list.    

As part of the program, IBM works with local venture capital and entrepreneur organizations such as The Indus Entrepreneur (TiE) and Indian Angel Network in India, Endeavor and  ABV Cap – venture capital organizations— in Brazil, and Zero-to-IPO – a network of VCs and entrepreneurs—and Asian Venture Capital Journal in China.  IBM holds annual symposiums with these partners to facilitate ecosystem building.   

While it does specifically channel these entrepreneurs toward IBM and “smarter planet” solutions, it also provides a channel to them to help kick-start their entry into the market, whether that market be local, regional or eventually global.  The program helps develop local ecosystems of partners for IBM but also brings that local innovation to the broader global market. 

I'd love to hear from anyone participating in the program, or planning on it.