“I need to know if this all works”, said Maria Zesch, Chief Commercial Officer at T-Mobile Austria, at the recent panel discussion on startups & corporates at AustrianStartups. Relationships between corporates and startups are not the easiest. They can be very fruitful. They can be a disaster. Joining an accelerator program provides the neutral ground for corporates and startups to work together on a technology problem or a business problem that needs to be solved.
On 18th September 2017 weXelerate officially opens its 9000 square meters of innovation space for the first 50 startups to accelerate. For startups, the accelerator is an environment where there is little danger of being swallowed up by lengthy corporate procedures and reporting.
Here are 7 areas prone to pitfalls and some tips how to avoid them:
1 It’s Business
First and foremost it has to be clear to both sides that they are there to do business. Let’s face it, corporates are not joining an accelerator program to care and share. Neither are startups. Corporates are looking for innovative products and solutions to take their business forward, ahead of their competition, and make money. Startups want to find customers and make money.
2 Strategic fit
The biggest challenge is figuring out if startups & corporates suit one another and whether their business models fit together. Pre-matching will identify key touch points. This reduces the risk of a mismatch and can save both sides valuable time. Nevertheless, no one can guarantee a sustainable mutually beneficial partnership once things get going.
3 Bring your problem
If you don’t ask for anything, you will get exactly that. Corporates who do not know what they want – just cruising – are considered a red flag in the startup community. To get the best results, corporates should bring a concrete problem to the accelerator. A well-defined task to solve is better than a random expectation. It is easier to define problems, measure progress, and see the real benefits.
4 We’re people
It is also important not to underestimate the human dimension. Startups & corporates are people. Algorithms may identify the perfect partners, but the key people may not click.
5 Showing commitment
By joining an accelerator program corporates demonstrate their financial and time commitments. It is important that the project(s) they are working on together with startups are integrated into the corporate innovation strategy and fully supported by the top management. This makes it much easier for the project leaders to communicate and to finally implement the results.
6 Get behind the wheel
The tanker and the speedboat are an often quoted metaphor describing corporates and startups. The tanker is huge and steady. The speedboat is compact and agile. For a successful cooperation, the speedboat should also act as the tug boat, pulling the big ship out of the harbour, ready for sailing in new waters. Startups need to drive the process.
Time is king. Startups do not have the time to wait for six months for a decision, if there will be any business with the corporate. They need to move fast. That is why it is critical for corporates to prepare for future cooperations in good time, so they can continue the cooperation once the accelerator program finishes. For startups it is crucial to find out how corporates “tick” and how they plan. It always helps to get to know the top decision makers.
Editor wireX magazine
Photo: Manfred Machacek