Ten Things to Consider Before Meeting a Startup

Ignite Public’s Mikaela Färnqvist and Marit Finch-Westin share the steps public organizations should follow to ensure startup meetings lead to successful pilots.

Ignite Public Process Leaders Mikaela Färnqvist and Marit Finch-Westin have been matching public sector organizations with innovative startups for the past three years. During this time, they have amassed immense knowledge on how procuring organizations can effectively work together with startups.

According to them, the key to successful pilots lies in the process conducted prior to meeting startups. This process includes ensuring organizations have a mandate, budget and backing at the management and operational levels., as well as the ability to identify, map and prioritize their needs before any meeting.

Here are the ten things any public organization or agency should consider before the initial meeting with a startup

1. Backing and mandate: It is important that the people involved have the authority to run the process internally and carry out a pilot. Has the organization worked with a startup previously? Is this way of working established within the organization? Also evaluate how the delegation order/decision path looks like. Is approval required to carry out a pilot? Who can make budgetary decisions in this area, and for how much?

2. Needs based: Start from the needs analysis and focus on needs (what) without getting stuck on solutions (how). Is the need established and backed with a desire to scale up?

3. In line with the strategy: Consider if there is a strategic framework that supports working with the identified needs.

4. Needs owners: Determine who needs to be involved in this process, both formally and from a practical implementation perspective. Who owns the need (mandate) and what skills/expertise need to be included in the match?

5. Degree of maturity working with startups: Define how mature you are as a purchaser when it comes to working with startups. If you don’t have much experience with this, you may need more dialogue with the suppliers. More people might need to be involved in the matchmaking meeting, not only to ensure the right skills and expertise but also for internal learning purposes.

6. Internal understanding of the process: Evaluate if you need to provide training for participants to clarify the objective of the Ignite Process. What do you want to achieve with their participation?

7. End-in-mind: Think about if you already have an idea of what you want to test and what you want to learn. Is the match mainly for competitive intelligence, are you looking for a specific solution, or do you want to learn something?

8. Innovation project: Estimate if it is possible to deviate from internal guidelines (internal procurement limits, etc.) in innovation projects.

9. Create for the future: If there are large needs that no one in the market is currently meeting today, can you encourage startups/entrepreneurs to create solutions in these areas? For example, by creating a small incubator with clearly stated needs that collaborates with other incubators, science parks and Ignite.

10. Keep in mind that there are different types of startups: A digital solution could, for example, be designed so that the bulk of the work is done in the initial stages to minimize the effort required to scale up later on, while a more traditional solution is scaled up linearly. Startups may also be at different stages of their journey. These stages include ‘under development’ (when you develop together in your collaboration/pilot), ‘in testing’ (when you test together and evaluate the results) and ‘in production’ (when they already have customers & references and you decide the scope of implementation in different steps.)

Find these tips and other important information in Pilots as a Strategic Tool for Innovation, a guide for procuring organizations on how to effectively collaborate with startups.

Click here to download the Swedish version of the guide

Click here to download the English version of the guide

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