The notion of early stage technology companies matchmaking or dating corporates is nothing new. Innovation now comprises a key pillar of many corporations’ strategy, with many looking to leverage open innovation as a rapid and effective means to achieve their short to mid-term goals.
Despite this, creating meaningful and enduring partnerships between a startup and corporation can still be incredibly difficult. For many early-stage companies, the potential upsides of working with a corporate organisation can often seem unclear, with a risk of it being an unwanted distraction. Whilst from the corporate perspective, collaborating with startups can sometimes be seen as a risky and ineffective exercise.
At The Bakery, we fundamentally believe, if carried out correctly, corporations have the power to accelerate and scale technology companies’ propositions, reaping the benefits in the process. However, to forge a truly meaningful partnership and a genuine win:win for both parties, it’s crucial to ensure you have the right building blocks in place to maximise the chances of success.
If you want to find out our top 5 tips to building a successful relationship with a corporate partner, keep reading…
Tip 1 : Meet The Right Person (People)
The most important part of any relationship is making sure you’re with the right person. The question is, how do you work out if this person is right?
- They need to value the opportunity to work with you. For any project you undertake with a corporation, you need to know the value of the opportunity to them. Even if it is only a rough estimate, having an idea of the size of the prize will ensure the engagement has potential for long-term success.
- They have to be interested (& willing to put their money where their mouth is). Whether you’re interacting directly with the overall sponsor, or someone reporting in to one, it is crucial there is a passion and drive to tackle the opportunity. Further to this, it is crucial there is funding in place for the work you’re undertaking together. If there isn’t sufficient buy-in on either of these counts, you’re setting yourself up for failure.
Tip 2 : Make Them Feel Special
There’s nothing worse than feeling unloved. First impressions are everything.
- Don’t just recycle what may have worked before. If you’re lucky, presenting your generic pitch deck will get you a foot in the door; however first impressions are everything. The more tailored you can create your pitch to a potential corporate partner’s specific problem, the better.
- Be curious and ask questions. You can’t be expected to know everything about a potential partner’s business; however a little goes a long way. Ahead of meeting them for the first time, carry out some research on their industry and the problem they’re trying to solve. Diligence and awareness are key to building rapport and confidence in the early stages of a partnership.
Tip 3 : Communication is Key
At the heart of any successful relationship is an honest and open dialogue.
- Recognise your differences to help you achieve your goals. Whilst a corporation and start-up’s innovation aims may be wildly different at the start of an engagement, in order to facilitate long-term success, you must be sensitive to and aware of each other’s goals and work out how you can both contribute to achieving them.
- Be direct and open. When working with senior stakeholders of any organisation, you need to be effective with their time. Be intentional with your communications: set objectives early on and stick to them. Efficiency and directness are crucial to getting things done in a big organisation.
Tip 4 : Patience is a Virtue
Good things come to those who wait.
- Be flexible & adaptable (up to a point). Things won’t always go to plan… people change roles, projects get re-scoped and strategies shift. An ability to adapt to this changing landscape within a corporation will help prove your value and develop trust. However, if you’re consistently doing more for less, it might be time to reconsider your partnership.
- Time is of the essence. Be cognisant that corporate timelines often involve many additional steps to moving a project forwards. However, these are the required checks and balances to build a deeper partnership and secure larger projects. A little patience goes a long way.
Tip 5 : Plan Your Future Together
Start as you mean to go on.
- Think big, start small. Before making a long-lasting commitment to one another, you need to ensure it’s the right fit for both parties. Through running rapid, iterative projects, you will be able to quickly determine not only whether the opportunity is worth your time and effort, but crucially what a future working relationship could look like.
- Negotiate terms that work for both of you. Things are now starting to get serious… This should be a fruitful opportunity for both of you, but one which needs clear boundaries. There are numerous things to tackle and consider as your partnership develops (e.g. contract terms, IP ownership & data security). If you’re feeling pressured, take a step back and try to assess objectively what you’re getting out of the deal. Conducting due diligence, through a partner like The Bakery, or through your own research can be critical to you making an informed decision about whether this opportunity is worth pursuing or not.
By consciously incorporating these tips into how you approach a potential corporate opportunity, you should safeguard against falling into many of the pitfalls that such a collaboration can surface. If you’re a small business in need of additional support for working with large corporations, or simply looking for new opportunities, then The Bakery can help.
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