Startup meets corporate. It’s love at first sight. They schedule a date, or two, or three. Only a few weeks go by and their baby is on its way… Erm, they are ready to launch their joint product. In case you are wondering, this is not a fairytale crafted by Hollywood writers, but a story based on true events. And yes, it can also happen to you. Or anyone in your network.
The corporate-startup love affair is a two-way street. The advantages for startup founders seem to be quite obvious: they can benefit from extra funding, visibility, relevant contacts and guidance throughout the most fragile stages of building up a business. However, their corporate counterparts gain just as much from these partnerships, a fact that is often overlooked. Now more than ever, digitalization has become a buzzword for Mittelstand (medium-sized) companies, as well as large corporations in Germany and across Europe. In need of fresh ideas and digital talent, corporates are actively searching for startup partners of all stages and verticals.
For founders seeking to cooperate with industry giants, the burning question remains: How can one identify the right contacts within a large and often times not exactly agile organization, and what’s the best strategy to get in touch with them? In our quest to find the answer to this and other related questions, like what factors do corporates take into account when cooperating with startups, we sat down with two entrepreneurs from two organizations that could not be more different in terms of size and structure. Here’s the story how the two recently launched a successful project together, including their takeaways…
Think outside your ecosystem
In December 2016, Tel Aviv-based entrepreneur Amir Tsrouya was on a business trip in Berlin, attending Factory’s Tel Aviv Week. Launched in 2015, Amir’s company, Tukuoro provides an easy-to-implement SDK, offering intelligent user interaction through voice. Before his travels, Amir admittedly looked at the program and speakers, and aimed to approach corporates present at the conference. However, he did not think about Conrad Elektronik’s IoT platform, Conrad Connect, as a business potentially interested in a collaboration. “Conrad Connect, a connectivity platform for mainly consumer electronic devices and services, has Philips, Osram, fitbit, Google and similar partners on board, so I wasn’t sure whether for them partnering with an Israeli startup was something worth exploring,” revealed Amir.
Founders usually make the mistake of looking for opportunities that seem to be straightforward. “Don’t get stuck at your geographic limits and what you consider a rational match,” suggested Amir.
Trust in the power of networking
Cold calls or emails are usually not the way to go to get in touch with the right contacts within larger companies. Serendipity might be on your side, but conducting some research and attending targeted events is a proven concept to get in direct contact with a corporate representative. “Personal contact is invaluable. Networking decreases the pressure and shortens the time of an otherwise long and exhausting process,” said Amir.
Conrad Connect’s Business Development Manager, Peter Kiss echoed this sentiment as he explained his encounter with Amir. “The whole thing started with the usual business card exchange and a clumsy sketch at Tel Aviv Week. The connection was there. We immediately started to map out our partnership and what is needed from both sides.”
Come with an open mind
After only three fruitful talks, including in-person meetings and Skype calls, Tukuoro launched its application on the Conrad Connect platform in February 2017—a pace that surpassed Amir’s expectations. “Unlike the rumors I heard about the German corporate mentality, Peter and the Conrad team were fast, responsive and extremely professional.”
Stereotyping and typecasting exist on the corporate side as well. “The startup success rate is around 5-10%. Some of the companies we’re in touch with today might not be around next year, which means we have to be very selective about the companies we’re working with,” said Peter, “Nevertheless, we’re always trying to stay flexible and open-minded. A good way to assess which company is working with future-proof solutions is looking at the founding team’s ability to understand the needs of their users.”
Remember that both parties bring something to the table
Just like every good relationship, corporate-startup partnerships won’t work unless both parties invest the same amount of effort into making it work. “We’re always striving for real win-win situations when connecting with early-stage founders,” explained Peter, “Tukuoro developed an application exclusively for the Conrad Connect users, and in return, we introduced the Tukuoro brand to our online community, providing visibility and marketing support”.