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How to get buy-in for startup collaboration?

Sander van der Blonk (Netherlands)
Client Relations
November 20, 2020

Today, in many industries, both cost-containment and innovation top the corporate agendas.

Cutting costs is an exercise in sheer rationality. Innovation calls for doing things differently. It disturbs. It triggers the immune system of an organization. And so it is with promoting startups for collaboration.

So, while you eagerly move things forward, expecting others to follow suit, you face a lack of engagement instead. And even sabotage sometimes.

Top-level support is not enough, apparently. You have to fight to validate your existence continuously. And you have to convince the organization that startups bring a lot of benefits.

How do you navigate the resistance?

Build allies

Visiting an accelerator to meet startups or to try something out doesn't move the needle. If you want to generate real outcomes, you have to bring startups closer to the core of the business and, essentially, into the workflows. And that's when people start digging their heels in.

Don't push harder: Obliterate! You have to build connections across the organization and, if possible, take away the reasons why people say 'no.'

It means spending much time on internal networking with, for example, business unit leaders and colleagues in legal, procurement, IT, and marketing. And you have to talk with each person about their needs and potential functional roles in a potential project (e.g., topic owner, budget holder, influencer, or facilitator).

Most importantly, you should address their mindset and sentiment about startups.

Categories of resistance

You might face three challenging situations when approaching stakeholders for startup collaboration:


In short, the person you talk to doesn't care about startups. He or she doesn't have a current pain or future desire compelling enough for startup collaboration.

In our experience, there is little you can do to motivate them.

Ego killer

For this person, bringing in startups creates an ego-challenge. In brief: They see startups as a reputation killer. They have a vision for themselves and see it thwarted by startups. Often, it has a bearing on the not-invented-here syndrome or a perceived risk to their career.

Don't discard them; they could become a supporter. The best approach is to offer them something that sways them in your favor. For example, you might consider giving them a final vote in accepting a particular startup, yes or no.


Unlike the previous example, this person might be interested because startups could bring something they care about, provided you can mitigate potential fears.

The tactic here is to find out what they think and, more importantly, why? In our experience, the underlying issues are often personal—for example, a former botched career as a startup founder.

The best approach is to develop the Case for Collaboration jointly. And to show them that the potential benefits outweigh the (personal) risks.

A simple piece of advice

Stakeholder management is not sexy, but it makes or breaks startup collaboration. We see many companies make the mistake to scout for startups and bring them into the organization without having sufficient stakeholder support.

It can be a costly error. And it doesn't go unnoticed among startups that have become cautious and picky.

Therefore, always reach out internally before you reach out externally. Focus on potential stakeholder's needs and concerns, whether imaginary or personal.

And if you need a hand with it, try Scoutely SRM. It structures, automates, and simplifies the fuzzy front-end of startup collaboration. And seamlessly integrates stakeholder management, startup scouting, expectation alignment, and collective decision-making in one shared workspace.

That's relaxed!

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