Making Corporate and Startup Collaboration Work: 5 suggestions to accelerate new business partnerships

5 suggestions to accelerate new business partnerships, with Highline Beta’s Ben Yoskovitz

Some say it’s extremely difficult for large companies and startups to work together. We believe it’s a matter of rethinking the relationship between them to succeed. At Highline Beta, we aim to unlock the unfair advantage for both sides and accelerate net new growth. 

The Enterprise Advantage

Large organizations have numerous advantages: economies of scale, a customer base, distribution, the capital and many smart, experienced people with domain expertise who know how to get innovation off the ground.  

The Startup Advantage

What large organizations have in size and experience, startups make up for in speed and agility. Without overwhelming operational systems, regulatory constraints and corresponding complexity, startups have the freedom to take risks and get pilots, build MVPs and test ideas quickly. Startups live and die by the pilot, aim for 10x growth and compete on speed.

So, how do we help them propel each other into new phases of their businesses? Here are 5 insights on how to make corporate and startup collaboration work.

#1: Create a real and meaningful interface

Big companies need a meaningful interface for connecting to startups. They can help facilitate this by lowering the corporate drawbridge and focusing on things like streamlining the legal and procurement process in order to get things done at the speed of innovation. Key stakeholder support from the top down, and bottom up is also integral to the corporate/startup relationship – ensuring milestones are met and timely decisions are made.

The 100+ Sustainability Accelerator with AB InBev is a good example of a strong startup ecosystem interface. It’s designed to attract the best startups, globally, that are focused on solving sustainability challenges. Every startup that wants to work with AB InBev on sustainability knows how to get through the door. And the program creates awareness and momentum within AB InBev, encouraging many employees to participate.

#2: Identify startups that can meaningfully engage 

Startups need to be established enough to manage a relationship with a corporate partner. Ideally, they already have a product in-market with some level of proof that it works. They also need to have resources available. Pilot endeavors can be all consuming with a limited number of feet on the ground. Startups need the time and bandwidth to meet the demands of the partnership, while demonstrating confidence in what they’re offering to deepen the level of trust. 

#3: Understand the corporation’s strategic priorities

Startups need to understand what matters to their corporate partners, and how they work. From understanding budgeting cycles to ensure they engage at the beginning, to knowing who the key decision makers are, and when to reach out – timing is important. Proof matters to big companies. Even if it’s a small opportunity, being tactical and getting a pilot off the ground quickly can generate momentum and demonstrate value – giving startups deeper access to their corporate partner, and a chance to scale from within.

#4: Understand the corporation’s core business models

Big companies want to maximize value quickly, and startups have to do their due diligence to understand how the machine works. Does the company want to build on a core capability, generate new customers or create a value-add for existing customers? Startups need to come to the table with questions answered, and demonstrate that they’re fulfilling a need that’s intrinsic to the corporation’s core business objectives.

#5: Get creative

There are many ways startups and big companies can work together. Sometimes it’s not as simple as a straightforward product-to-purchaser sale. Exploring alternative partnership models can unlock opportunities that are mutually beneficial and easier to implement and execute.

Collaboration is Our Cornerstone

At Highline Beta, we help companies identify areas for opportunity and growth, and simplify systems to facilitate deep and meaningful relationships with startups. You can find us at the intersection between corporates and startups on the precipice of innovation, and there’s no place we’d rather be.

Watch Ben Yoskovitz’s full presentation here:

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