Partnering with Startups to Drive Innovation

October 12, 2018

In our “Partnering with Startups to Drive Innovation” Master Class, Brian Christian from our strategic partner, The Inovo Group, focused on how to forge meaningful relationships with startups. He explored the reasons companies work with startups and how to integrate these partnerships into your innovation system. Other topics included:

  • Which industries are maximizing on startup collaboration
  • The obstacles and benefits of partnering with a startup
  • How to overcome initial challenges
  • Best practices for creating a mutually-beneficial relationship.

Christian is the founder of the The Inovo Group, an consulting firm that aides technology-driven companies with strategic innovation. Read some of the highlights, or download a PDF of the slide deck.

During the webcast, Christian discussed the strengths that startups have that can complement weaknesses at a large, established company: “Many people refer to startups as a small business in search of optimal product-market fit. And they’re just really good at that and doing it quickly. … Corporates are pretty self evident; they know that they’re large. They know they’ve got inflexibility — complex, shared accountabilities. They’re slower to move, so I think that they see that as a real asset to the collaboration.”

 While working with startups has many benefits, Christian also covered potential challenges companies may face along the way. He said that the initial task of identifying the right startups to partner with can be difficult. According to Christian, finding the best model for collaboration, addressing intellectual property issues, and designing an effective integration plan can also be challenging.

“The first thing you have to solve is the complexity on the corporate side in building a bridge to the startup,” Christian says. “You can’t just say, ‘Here are the four or five places — legal, marketing, sales, R&D, maybe the corporate innovation group — that the startup has to plug into.’ You have to create a single interface to a startup … that’s going to be a single point of connection to the startup, with someone who’s got some startup experience…”

Christian also laid out nine different “modes” for corporate-startup collaborationThroughout the webcast, Christian answered listener questions. When addressing a question about how companies should measure success, he discussed input metrics and output metrics.

“There are metrics that measure how well you’re doing in terms of the activity you’re putting into the collaboration initiative. And then there are the output metrics, what kind of outputs are being created. Traditionally, companies are more interested in the latter. And you have to have those,” Christian said. “But in the early days, you really want to be relying on those input metrics. So you want to be measuring things like, how many startups have we connected to, and then how many startups are we taking the next step with… And then how many startups have I formed formal agreements with?”

For more best practices on partnering with startups, check out the full set of slides that The Inovo Group showed during the Master Cla