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Corporates seeking startups should become better at dating - Three tips on how to do that.

Sander van der Blonk (Netherlands)
Client Relations
June 26, 2021
3
minutes

The fuzzy front-end of collaboration

There is vast potential in corporate-startup collaborations and (non-equity)partnerships.

Some studies suggest that about 75% of corporates across the board consider working with startups essential today.

However, only about 25% of them are completely satisfied with their relationships. On the startup side, the tendency is similar.

One of the root factors is a lack of proper alignment in the startup search phase, also known as the fuzzy front-end of startup collaboration.

By and large, expectations crash, not a startup's technology. So, proactively getting to a mutual understanding about a common goal, need, and a joint way of working is critical.

It means that corporates and startups must discuss strategic, operational, and relationship aspects. And as no two startups are the same, each collaboration needs to be customized.

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Here are three practical tips:

1.     See more startups

It may seem counterintuitive, but the best way to find alignment is to make the top of the search funnel wider and see more startups. After all, the biggest impact won't come from any single startup or technology.

The saying is: You have to kiss many frogs to find your prince. By doing it often, you become better at explicating what you seek and making the right choices. It's that simple. 😊

2.    Make the implicit explicit

Corporate innovators like to use spreadsheets and binary yes/no criteria when selecting startups.

It works fine for a first cut. And for transactional supplier arrangements.

In innovation partnerships, there is no other way than to have multiple conversations with the startup's leadership team. These can be as short as 15-minute talks up to multiple-hour deep dives.

The motto here is: Articulate opinions, commonalities, and differences. And clear up a lot of the uncertainties upfront. After all, collaborations are not between companies but between people that like and trust each other.  

3.   Assess potential partnering value

Bringing startups inside can trigger the organizational immune system. And so, making decisions about startups is fraught with uncertainty, and people's biases come through.

The theme here is: Shift decisions away from personal agendas. Stick to a transparent decision-making procedure focusing on the potential contribution of a particular collaboration to the company's (innovation) goals.

A final thought

Successful partnering selections are grounded in an efficient and repeatable process. But innovation and business leaders typically don't have the tools beyond email and spreadsheets to discuss startups' value without disturbing the daily routines.

A professional Startup Relationship Management platform can remedy this and help perfect the pipelining efforts.

Interested in learning how Scoutely SRM can help your company? Let us know for a demo and free trial.

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