Five Tips for Startups Looking to Navigate Corporate Partnerships
Dec 10 , 2017 | By Inevert
From market experience and knowledge to established networks and brand power, partnering with large corporations produces numerous advantages for startups. However, maneuvering corporate partnerships can prove tricky, particularly in the early stages of development.
So how can a startup gain the attention of a major corporation, create value, and not become overwhelmed during the process? The experts at Inevert have put together a list of the top five tips for startups looking to navigate corporate partnerships.
1- Research Your Potential Corporate Partner
A corporate partnership is like any other relationship. You don't want to dive in without doing your homework. When embarking on a corporate partnership for your startup, take time to thoroughly research your potential corporate partner.
What are the company's vision and core values? Do they align with your vision and values? What departments and services are relevant to your startup? What do you both stand to gain from establishing a partnership? This type of research will help you compile a list of the right strategic partners to contact. It also shows corporates that you are sincerely interested in working with their company.
2- Focus on Selling Your Value and Insight and Not Your Products
On the corporate side of the partnership, it goes beyond your technology; they want to see your passion and value. They'll start by looking at your team first, followed by your investors, and lastly your technology. Ultimately, a successful partnership depends on the value and the team you can create for both your startup and the corporation.
On one hand, you don't need to oversell your product. If a corporate is entertaining the idea of partnering with your startup, chances are they already know your startup offers unrivaled, innovative technology. They wouldn't be talking with you if they thought otherwise. Instead of focusing solely on your product, demonstrate your startup’s ability to align and solve innovation challenges together. On the other hand, you do want to highlight your product so your potential corporate partner sees first hand what you are bringing to the table.
Regardless of how you are communicating, be sure your correspondence always add insights on how a partnership with your startup adds value to their company. Follow relevant company news that relates to the value you’re prepared to offer with a partnership. When pitching to corporates, keep in mind that when it comes to partnering with your startup up, it’s either about saving money or making money. Understand the business model and value creation of the corporate you’re interested in partnering with and focus how your solution can fit into that strategic plan.
3- Understand Your Partner's Culture
At this point in the game, you’ve probably heard a few horror stories. A startup partners with a corporation and the one individual driving innovation leaves the company. Where does that leave the startup? How can a startup still achieve their goals if the one person who’s driving innovation leaves the company they've partnered with? Culture.
Start by getting a feel for the internal culture of a potential corporate partner. Take a good look at upper management. If top management doesn’t support a startup-friendly culture, you’re going to have a hard time driving change and innovation.
We advise testing the waters by asking for a meeting with the company’s key decision maker or pivotal stakeholder. If a CEO doesn't give you 10 or 15 minutes of their time, chances are the internal corporate culture is not the best fit for an early stage startup. As a startup, you need to aim for a partnership with top management support. They will prove to be the backbone of your corporate partnership.
4- Communicate With Your Partners
When corporates and startups enter a partnership, it's essential for both parties to clearly articulate what they have to offer and what they want to accomplish with the partnership. We advise obtaining a sense of the corporate’s intentions as early as possible in the relationship.
Start by asking potential corporate partners what they would like to accomplish by partnering with your startup. Most importantly, always try to communicate with upper management. As we mentioned earlier, and can not stress enough, upper management support is crucial for efficiently navigating different internal processes within your corporate partnership.
5- Be the Driving Force in the Partnership
Be prepared to take the driver's seat. Large corporations typically change over time. A large corporation is going to experience more difficulties changing or advancing internal processes than a startup. There needs to be someone who navigates this difference in pace. And that someone is your startup.
Once again, this is where your relationship with upper management becomes crucial. From the start, be sure to communicate that you need the freedom to complete your tasks and not be delayed by slower corporate processes. But at the same time be patient and respectful of their corporate processes and procedures.
Waiting for things to happen in your partnership will not work. Essentially, the startup will be the driving force in the partnership. Be prepared to constantly meet with people and continually address topics until they come to fruition.
Despite how much you desire a corporate partnership, be sure to stick to your vision and plan. When starting a corporate partnership, remember that who you choose to partner with will greatly impact your reputation and brand recognition. The goal is to cultivate a mutually beneficial partnership, built on shared vision, value and profitability. If you stick to the above tips, your startup will be well on it's way to navigating a successful corporate partnership.