When looking for a technology startup to partner with, big companies can fall into the same trap as people trying online dating: They see the quest as a numbers game favoring those who get out there and mingle with the greatest number of people.
In contrast, RocketSpace's Corporate Innovation Services prefers to introduce only high-quality opportunities to corporate clients. With access to startups around the world, “we've developed the capability to continually assess the startup community and filter out the noise from signal; the signal being the best startups that are in various strategic spaces," says Michele McConomy, senior vice president and general manager of RocketSpace's Corporate Innovation Services division.
So how do you avoid a Corporate-Startup dating disaster?
Understanding Both Sides' Needs
With plenty of experience in big companies' business strategies, as well as in what hampers their innovation efforts, RocketSpace pairs startups with corporations with the goal of making something happen.
One pitfall of online dating services is they don't offer any verification methods to ensure someone is who he or she claims to be, such as a non-smoker or a social drinker. A viable relationship relies on knowing which questions to ask before bringing together potential partners.
“We want to understand the intent of a corporation -- what are they trying to accomplish and what are the types of startups they could work with?" McConomy says. “What are their areas of focus? What are some things not in play right now? By getting to know them at a deep level, we can select the best ones for them."
That rigorous effort to understand both sides' needs leads “to a much higher success rate and less of a time suck for the corporate and startup," avoiding meeting hundreds of potential partners with nothing panning out, she explains. RocketSpace selects startups at the best stage in their development to best fulfill the needs of a corporation's customers.
The Value of an Impartial Broker
Setting up an in-house accelerator is often a big drain on resources and can fall short of achieving what was hoped for, as many corporates have discovered. Often, they do not offer an environment that's nimble enough to attract startups, and they aren't used to providing the high level of ongoing support that startups need to stay on track and succeed. In-house accelerators also tend to waste time looking for startups in the wrong places and don't understand what they should be on the lookout for.
A key concern for corporates is that they don't know what they don't know. Because they don't live in the startup world, judging quality is typically a challenge for them, McConomy says. When it comes to actually meeting and greeting and getting to know startups, global brands need to be sensitive about how to invest their time wisely and not raise false expectations in startups that can end up damaging the corporation's reputation in the long term.
Startups are becoming more savvy and may feel they have all the funding they need without having to rely on a corporation as an option for their growth. Some feel they've been burned in the past by a big company promising something it didn't deliver. “That's a big problem that corporates will face in the future. They're not going to be taken seriously because of the way they approach the [startup] space," says McConomy.
Much as with romance, the best matches result when both parties know precisely what they want in a relationship. Playing matchmaker for a large consumer products company that was looking for the right geo-locator functionality to build into a product, RocketSpace found the perfect partner in a small startup 9,000 miles away. Bringing the partners together enabled them "to test the experience of what they wanted to create for their customers, and it worked so well that they embedded it in the product in under three months," McConomy says. “That's where the magic happens – when there's a great need by the corporation and a great opportunity provided by the startup that can lead to a great innovation for the customer."
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What other things should corporates consider? Check out 4 Things Corporates can Learn from the TV Show Silicon Valley from the Corporate Innovation blog.
Want to learn about how RocketSpace can help connect you with the best startups? Learn more about our work with Corporates.