Emergence Maturity Index Award 2019: And the winner is...

Emerging companies in the tech world are a dime a dozen that tend to fail in anonymity. Once in awhile a company breaks free from the pack - usually because they behave as a company and not just an institution with cool tech. The EMI Award is for the small and emerging company closest to a break out.

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On Monday, I announced the winners of the CRM Watchlist 2019. That award has been around for 13 years, but this is Year One of the Watchlist 2.0 – the largest revision in its history. Now we enter and are charting new territory.

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Today, I want to announce the very first annual winner – note the singular – of the EMI (pronounced "Emmie", heh heh).

Before I get to the name of the winner and this had a surprising twist – I want to explain what EMI is.

EMI stands for Emergence Maturity Index. Simply put, the winner of this award is the participant young company that stands the best chance of a significant near term breakout. The index itself was meant to be a somewhat predictive index: A company on the index was being judged by its evolution as a company and the footprint it was creating as it grew. That is, it was being just judged not only on the likelihood of breaking out but the general time frame in which it was likely to break out.

Why is the EMI Award launching this year? As someone who's been around for a long time in the customer-facing world and the industries that serve it, I know how important it is for a small company to achieve visibility. It's not easy to achieve  because there are a lot of the big guys in these industries already that are having the impact which the smaller company most likely aspires to.  But they don't typically have the resources – financial, personnel, time -- to go head to head with the larger players when it comes to visibility. They need to have alternate avenues.

From 2011 to 2015, we had one such alternate avenue for emerging companies: I created  "CRM Idol", a contest (modeled after American Idol ) that engaged the major influencers in the CRM industry from independent through boutique through institutional, from vendors to practitioners, and from analysts to journalists. Here's how it worked: A company had to apply and be accepted as a contestant, was assigned a leading influencer as a mentor, and then had to audition before a panel of judges. As a company advanced, it had to submit to a full-on management interview by a senior judge or two and then had to produce a video that was voted on by the public and by a panel of 100 other judges from all the areas mentioned above. 

 And from that pool at first two and then one winner emerged as the leading emerging company in the industry.  One of our two first winners in 2011 was bpm'online, which won the CRM Watchlist this year (and previous years). What was an unnoticed company became noticed via CRM Idol and they went and did their great work from there, and now are a recognized market leader. They seized upon the opportunity they had and ran with it.

Honestly, the amount of  work that contest demanded from me was so great --given that I had to handle the Watchlist and also do those things that I made my living at  -- that I was forced to shelve it after 2015.

At first, I let the emerging companies (unless they were just clearly too small) be part of the Watchlist -- and close to 50 percent of the Watchlist entries were the emerging companies. But the CRM Watchlist is an award for companies having an impact now – and reflecting real life market conditions. Those emerging companies very rarely won the Watchlist.  Not even one per year all in all -- which was not fair to them.

Typically a small company is barely even a company yet. It is more often than not a technology with an institution wrapped around it. What the EMI is looking at is how prepared is the company to do the marketing, the outreach, build up the sales teams, establish the culture, identify the processes and procedures, and involve themselves in the things that make up a company beyond the engineering that goes into their product. For example, I am not impressed with just a great product. There are a lot of small and unknown companies that have terrific products. I'd give you some examples, but I don't know their names.

That said, the emerging companies understand the value of those non-engineering things -- such as marketing and intangibles like the good will of key people in the market – to their efforts to establish their bona fides in the business world. They are companies with offerings, not technologies in an institutional wrapper.

The EMI Award was born to find and give exposure to those kind of companies. While EMI has nowhere near the scope nor the production demands of CRM Idol, I think it will recognize and support smart emerging companies in the market. Hopefully, it will have an impact.

However the EMI won't be limited to this award; it is meant to be an ongoing index. Companies who wish to be listed in the index – meaning evaluated, not necessarily publicly listed – will have a place to go on my upcoming website to download a form that they can fill out that will be plugged into the index.  Once they are scored, I will provide some free feedback on why they scored what they scored at their request. I'm still working on the details and the way I want to handle it. The idea though is that the emerging companies can go to a place where everybody knows their name. More details will follow.

But we have something to celebrate, as the first participants in the EMI Award (not the EMI per se) have been scored and judged and we have a winner.

What the winner will get

Aside from a badge to display that is still being designed, the winner will get two free hours of consulting from me in any area that they want (this is a $3,750 value) for use by December 31, 2019. They will also get a solo write up on ZDNet.  All in all, something that  I hope will help propel them into the breakout they are on the path to.

But first,  before we announce (ha, you thought I was going to drop it now didn't you?) here are the criteria needed to qualify for submission and what needed to happen to win.

The EMI criteria

The bulk of the criteria are the same as the Watchlist: You must request a registration form, and then you have two weeks to submit it. The due dates (December 31, 2019 at 6pm PT) are the same, etc. The fact that your company provides a customer-facing technology or services supporting customer-facing technologies are the same. Here is what's different and thus notable:

  1. Revenue: Has less than $2 million in annual actual revenue (not run rate) the prior fiscal year. (In this case, it was 2017, even though 2018 will be over when questionnaires are submitted.)
  2. Outside funding: You can be an outside funded company, though you will be asked to talk about it in your questionnaire. (The round you have received is also immaterial.)
  3. Employees: You have under 75 employees. (Exceptions will be considered.)\
  4. Existence: You have been in existence less than six years. (Six years exactly doesn't qualify -- i.e., 5 years, 11 months, 364 days or less qualifies.)

The EMI itself will be an assigned number from 1-10 with increments (e.g. 7.Th25) possible, that will show how close to a real breakout I think any given company is.  The Award went to the highest scorer on the EMI Index based on the submissions.

The EMI: How it works.

In order to show you what to expect, here is an approximation of how I scored and the companies who choose to participate in the award.

You will see an index number, a short description of why this company got that number and a suggestion or two of where they need to go from here. The example is anonymized. It might or might not have been an actual one.

The overarching criteria for a winner

  1. Great product -- proven to work as promised.
  2. Clear use cases.
  3. Unique value in established markets.
  4. Marketing is done well and focused on their actual value proposition i.e. the outcomes.
  5. Market alignment: they are providing something that the market wants.
  6. Case studies to prove the point.
  7. Evidence of increasing market visibility.
  8. Good management mix with highly qualified people well aligned with what they need to grow -- and with the experience, and the foresight -- to support that growth.
  9. Some outreach should be evident.
  10. Awareness of the power of intangibles (I'll deliberately leave this vague)
  11. Evidence of a long-term outcome and plan.
  12. Other things that I won't go into here.

The EMI is a measure of breakout potential and likelihood. It is designed to decide how ready the companies measured are for that breakout. A score of 100.00 is the maximum and of course that means, coming at you right now. But no one is at that level. For example one EMI score was 62.34. I won't tell you anything more. That's just designed to let you know how the index scores look. There were weighted scores in multiple categories. There was a total unweighted and a total weighted score.

All designed to figure out who would be the most likely to breakout in 2019-2020.

The Twist….

Remember I mentioned above that there was a twist? There was. The top two were SO close that it bordered on a tie. It was a tie until I applied  tiebreakers. Remember weighted categories?  As a result, we had a winner by an incredibly small margin. Sadly, since I promised only one winner, I'm going to tell you who that was – a little bit about the company and then in a few weeks do a more substantial write – up of the winner.

So, without further ado….

The winner of the EMI 2019 is…Affinity!

Congratulations to Affinity for winning the first annual EMI 2019!

There will be more detail forthcoming but when it comes down to it, Affinity is the company that, first and foremost, has gone beyond just its own technology. First, they've wisely chosen a market of interest to practitioners which is relationship intelligence. This market, currently driven largely by Introhive, is both new enough to be something of a greenfield and mature enough to have proven value, use cases, and successful case studies -- so it's not a high-risk dice roll. Affinity has been smart enough to build a qualified product/solution and have a strong experienced management team. They also have shown their ability to recognize market opportunity when it presents itself. The other thing that stood out was their willingness to invest in the intangibles like thought leadership. 

There is still a lot left for Affinity to do and in the coming weeks we'll examine some of their other strengths and what I suggest they do in 2019 to get them to break out.

For now, a round of applause for Affinity and also, please keep your eyes on them.

One final thing…. Registration for the EMI 2020 is now open

Registration for the 2020 EMIs is now open. Here is the calendar and a warning too, youngsters.

All the times of day for these four items are 6pm PT.

  1. Registration Opens – February 13, 2019
  2. Registration Closes – September 30, 2019
  3. Withdrawal of Registrants Deadline – October 31, 2019
  4. Final Submission Due Date – December 31, 2019

Notes on the calendar:

  1. 6pm PT for registration, withdrawal and submission means 6pm PT not 6:01pm PT.
  2. I understand that things happen which means even after registration you may not be able to fulfill the requirements and send a completed questionnaire. Because there is a lot of ancillary research I have to do post-withdrawal date on each registrant remaining, you have to let me know by that date and time so I don't waste my time researching you and then you don't submit. It's the courteous thing to do.

If you are interested in registering, please send me an email at paul-greenberg3@the56group.com requesting a registration form.

That's it. Watch for the post on Affinity in the coming weeks and otherwise have a great week and if you are so inclined, please join us for the EMI Award 2020.