Traction Tech Council launches to help IT execs spend money on the right startups

Sourcing the right technology for a company has always been challenging, but today it is an entirely different beast. There are tens of thousands of startups out there hawking their technology services, and the pace of innovation has increased dramatically. Hundreds of startups claim to use artificial intelligence or blockchain technology in their software, but do they actually solve the core issues that an enterprise customer has?

That’s where Traction Tech Council comes in. The service, which launched today and is based in New York City, is the brainchild of Neal Silverman, who formerly led the DEMO series of conferences for IDG Enterprise, and Erick Schonfeld, former editor of TechCrunch. The two got together after years of thinking about how to create a better experience for IT executives to find the best emerging technologies and startups. We wanted to “curate and find and discover companies specifically for CIOs to solve problems they have,” Silverman explained.

As a member of the Council, users can use the platform to investigate the background of startups organized around a series of “topics” like data processing, artificial intelligence, and blockchain. From there, buyers can investigate the backgrounds of individual companies, such as how much funding the company has received or who its customers are. The goal is to connect buyers with “enterprise-ready” startups, and indeed, the platform has a button for a buyer to connect directly with startups they like.

Potentially most valuable for users is the ability to interact and ask questions of other network members, including a function to ask questions anonymously. That way, a corporate executive can ask how others are using say marketing automation for ecommerce, without revealing key details of their business or identity.

Users are offered a feed of relevant startups based on their interests

Our goal is to “create a peer-to-peer knowledge exchange,” Silverman explained to me. “It is overwhelming for anyone to keep up with it all,” and so the Council is designed to “bring [CIOs] the best of breed enterprise startups they can really work with.”

In this way, it is a symmetrical software platform to StackShare, which I wrote about a few weeks ago. Where the Council focuses on building community for CIOs and other business executives, StackShare helps engineers connect with other engineers to understand the technical challenges of working with different technology solutions.

In addition to the platform and startup database, there is also a series of events that is included in membership. Six live sessions, two field trips to San Francisco and New York as well as four Deep Dives into specific ecosystems are part of the package as well. The goal is to provide context to challenging problems like data analytics, while also allowing members to potentially meet each other in person or via video live stream.

Pricing is $2,900 a year for individuals, and $5,000 a year for a team-based membership, which includes a total of six accounts (the buyer and five colleagues). Right now, the platform has 150 members on the platform interested in a range of enterprise technology. Charter members include Akamai, Honeywell, and Lockheed Martin.

Silverman emphasized that the Council is “built specifically for enterprise executives, [and] it is a vendor-free zone.” That said, startups can apply and be listed on the service for free by filling out a startup application. Vetted startups are then listed on the platform, where members have the ability to connect directly to them.

The Council is just one part of Silverman and Schonfeld’s Traction Technology Partners startup. In addition to the Council, TTP hosts private “innovation discovery programs” for enterprise companies looking for more tailored advice on startups they should engage with as well as the Velocity Network that TechCrunch has written about previously. TTP also announced today that they have raised a $500,000 seed round, led by Eric Gertler, co-chairman of U.S. News & World Report and CEO of Ulysses Ventures.

Ultimately, the two hope to move beyond sales pitches and awkward IT dinners to engage enterprise technology buyers in a new way. We are “leading with education, then discovery, then community,” Silverman said. “There are a lot of consultants out there that can show you good startups,” but few can help you build connections with peers to be informed on exactly how an industry is responding to new technology services.