RocketSpace has developed a 4-step methodology for helping companies build more impactful relationships with startup partners: learn, discover, experiment, and partner. This "dating advice" series with Michele McConomy, senior vice president and general manager of corporate innovation services, addresses each step of this 4-step process. In today's post, she shares 3 tips for finding the right partnership opportunities. Sign up for our mailing list to receive the rest of this series + more posts from the RocketSpace blog in your inbox.
To stay relevant and keep up with the speed of innovation, corporations should consider partnering with a startup instead of developing their own products from the ground-up or building a corporate accelerator in-house. The partnership model has a few benefits:
You minimize the risk of wasted resources. In-house accelerators are notorious for being resource drains. Unless you're willing to make a long-term strategic investment—devoting considerable resources and people power to innovation—you may end up shutting down your program too early. A common mistake among corporations is that they think that they're ready to build an in-house accelerator from the ground up when they actually aren't. Even though corporations might have financial resources, they are several steps removed from entrepreneurial ecosystems and top startups.
You can collaborate with fellow corporate partners. One way to minimize risk and uncertainty is to team up with other companies in non-competitive but similar spaces to your own. For instance, Lufthansa Cargo, Kaleido, and Ingram Micro have teamed up to create Silicon Valley's first logistics tech accelerator. Having just completed its first batch of partnerships, the goal of the program is to identify and implement pilots that have the potential to grow. Each of these three corporations feel stronger tapping into Silicon Valley's logistics tech ecosystem a group than alone.
You get to market faster. R&D, especially in a corporate environment, can take a long time. By using technology that is already in development and on the market, corporate innovation leaders can launch business experiments faster.
Partner With Only the Best
Despite the value that startup partnerships bring to corporations, innovation leaders are always facing risks of failed projects that don't come to fruition. The startup ecosystem is filled with what many corporate innovation leaders call "B-plus players"— early-stage ventures that have big visions but limited execution capabilities. Here are three simple tips to help corporations build stronger funnels of potential startup partners:
1. Keep an open mind. As a leader within a corporation, you may be under pressure to reach specific financial targets or long-term goals. For that reason, it's far too easy to develop tunnel vision around partnership opportunities. Fixate on one goal, and you may lose sight of low-hanging business opportunities that surround you. To avoid this potential pitfall, it's important to cast a wide net around your innovation goals and look at the world as an open platform of opportunity. When sourcing potential startup partners, corporations also need to focus on business areas outside of their core strategic priorities. Many times, corporate innovation leaders will approach potential startup partners with set expectations and goals. The key is to train your team to do the exact opposite.
2. Work with a guide when exploring startup ecosystems. Collaborating with startups can be challenging, as they operate at different paces. Corporations tend to focus on top-down strategy, while startups often start from the bottom, capitalizing on low-hanging resources that are available to them in the market. To work effectively with one another, corporations and startups need to engage in a structured way that allows them to stretch their world views. That's why corporations such as Rabobank are working with RocketSpace to launch industry-focused accelerators like Terra, a new food and agtech accelerator in Silicon Valley. Expertise and guidance from RocketSpace enables Terra's corporate and startup partners to engage with one another more efficiently. Rather than starting with a blank slate in exploring Silicon Valley's food startup ecosystem, RocketSpace is able to provide a direct lens. As a result, Terra's startup and corporate partners can accelerate their time to market with new product development initiatives.Guides can help introduce corporations to startups, faster. As a result, organizations can focus their time on real-time product testing and go-to-market solutions. The path to revenue for corporation innovation becomes more direct.
3. Partner with other corporations to identify high-potential startup partners. One of the biggest challenges that corporate innovation efforts face is that they're prone to failure. If your company has invested multiple millions of dollars in launching an accelerator or partnerships programs, you may find yourself struggling to justify the financial loss.
But failure is a natural part of corporate innovation. The faster you fail, the sooner you can identify potential startup partners: failure leads to insight on what problems you need to be solving, so you can systematically, methodically, and efficiently course-correct issues.
One way to reduce uncertainty and risk is to partner with fellow corporations in your industry. For inspiration, take a look at RocketSpace's logistics tech accelerator, which operates in partnership with Kaleido, Ingram Micro, and Lufthansa Cargo. Behind the scenes, these organizations are sharing insight to ensure their corporate/startup partnerships are successful.
Want to see how you can better network with other innovation professionals and tap into the global ecosystem? Learn more about our Corporate Membership Program and how we help corporations work with startups.
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