Corporate Tips When Meeting Startups

Researchers Tomas Blomquist, Sujith Nair and Medhanie Gaim share their best practice tips for corporates wanting to begin collaborative partnerships.

For corporations, finding the right startup can be expensive and the evaluation process long and difficult. 

After studying 150 Ignite matchmaking meetings, Umeå University’s researchers, Tomas Blomquist, Sujith Nair and Medhanie Gaim, recently published their best practice tips for corporates in the Harvard Business Review.

Their main conclusion is that most collaborations that move past the first meeting share three characteristics: clarity of aim, openness to surprises, and assembling the right team.

Here are some of their key tips for corporates wanting to begin collaborative partnerships with startups:

1. Know what you want to achieve working with a startup

  • Have an explicit aim, i.e. to solve a specific problem, inject fresh perspectives to existing challenges, access new technologies or test emerging technologies, and know what you want to get out of the first meeting.
  • Prepare beforehand and be able to understand your company/department’s challenges. This helps you assess which startup solutions align with the appropriate parts of your organization.
  • Presenting these needs and priorities to startups will often allow them to adapt.

2. Be open to surprises

Although it is important to understand your specific needs, it is also essential to stay open minded about potential matches that don’t seem like a perfect fit at first glance.

  • Focusing only on the immediate goal can be restraining; be open to some of the novel ideas that startups can bring.
  • This requires technological competency to understand how these new technologies can be applied to your business. This means assembling the right team for these meetings.

3. Assembling the right team

  • Create a balanced team of technologists, business developers and decision makers who understand current and future opportunities that startups present.
  • This type of team can ask the right questions that lead to a co-creation process where startups can pivot their ideas to suit your needs.
  • Understanding both the technical and business aspects of a potential collaboration is important to ensure its suitability and sustainability.
  • Decision-makers involvement is instrumental in ensuring real commitments to partnerships or pilots can be made in a faster manner.

Some key questions Tomas, Sujith and Medhanie suggest corporates ask to better prepare for meeting startups:

  • What are our areas of interest and strategic agendas?
  • What are the current challenges we need to solve?
  • Who are we meeting? Why are they interested in us?
  • What do we want to get out of the meeting?
  • How can their solutions be integrated with our company?
  • What are the potential areas in which we can work together?
  • Do we have the right team composition?
  • What can we offer?

Find the full Harvard Business Review article here.

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