How to sell to giant conglomerates as a small startup

Think you need to be some tech titan to sell to the giant conglomerates? Think again. Five years back, I was hitting the pavement, pitching to resorts, face-to-face, and sending messages to the head honchos of hotel chains on LinkedIn.

Back then, all we had was a website with slick design and a killer product video. We were fresh, just a few months in. But then, the Chief People Officer of a $50B hotel empire liked my LinkedIn message and took a meeting. Boom, we're in for a pilot at their crown jewel hotel in Bangkok, Thailand. Based on this traction we landed our first investment, from an San Francisco venture capital firm, off a cold email. Beat those 1 in 3000 odds of a cold email leading to an investment (according to this firm’s stats).

In the heart of that pilot program, life was a raw hustle. By day, it was handshakes and nods with the suits — hotel executives, managers, staff with tired smiles. By dark, it was coding all nighters. The world shrunk to the glow of a laptop screen, a lifeline to an engineer many timezones away. We were chasing the creation of an automated employee scheduling algorithm, fueled by coffee and the madness of hope.

The algorithm improved the schedules of these overworked hotel workers by a remarkable degree. We were on a roll. As the pilot came to an end, the world shifted, teetering on the edge of pandemic chaos in March of 2020, we pivoted — not beaten, just redirected. Our tech, once destined for luxury lobbies, found its calling in the hushed halls of Mount Sinai, a top 15 US hospital. Reinvented, our dream thrived in the face of adversity, proof that fortune favors the brave.

Here's the takeaway: You don't need a behemoth to make your mark. From concept to customer, from capital to product, you carve your own path.