I can't tell you how many early stage companies I talk to tout their great list of partners. I always step back in amazement at how a small company can support more than one, really large partner in the beginning. In fact, I remember being in a meeting with a strategic partner once and having them tell me that we would break if they put their resources behind our product. You have to realize there are 2 kinds of partners - technology partners and real partners. In my mind, if you and your partner are not generating revenue for each other than it isn't a real partnership but rather just a Barney press release. Yeah, you know the "I love you, you love me" kind of partnership that sucks precious resources from a startup and yields no value and no customers.
So how do you make a real partnership work? In theory, it is very simple but requires a ton of hard work. Here are a few rules I like to use when working with partners.
Rule #1 - Don't rely on corporate; engage at the field level.
Rule #2 - Focus, narrowly focus your opportunities.
Rule #3 - Your partner's sales force needs to get comped
Rule #4 - Dedicate the proper amount of resources to make the partnership successful.
As you can see, it is quite hard to support more than one partner for an early stage company.