Startups represent a tsunami of disruption that is about to crash into your industry. They also represent a source of high-potential new products and services, investment and acquisition opportunities, and partnerships that could help you stave off disruption.

If you work in an established organization, depending on the day, all of those messages may be in circulation. And you may also have colleagues who believe that startups are overhyped—fantastical unicorns that attract funding, generate publicity, but never produce profits. Just ignore them, and maybe they’ll vanish…

For this research report, we wanted to understand how some of the top-performing organizations in the world design strategies to engage with startups. We gathered quantitative data from 115 large organizations in a survey we fielded in March 2019.

We also conducted 15 qualitative interviews with a range of companies, from Royal Dutch Shell (82,000 employees, and #5 on the Fortune 500 list, with $311 billion in revenue) to The Shubert Organization, an owner of Broadway theaters and the ticketing system Telecharge, which is privately-held and has 1,800 employees. 

Here’s what you’ll find within the report:

  • Case Studies & Advice: Leaders from Shell, Metlife, the Air Force, and more discuss their approaches. Plus, direct advice from survey respondents on what works.
  • Data: We asked 115 innovation professionals about their experience working with startups.
  • Thought Leadership: Our sponsor for this report, Techstars, provides expertise on how corporations and startups can work together.

Sample Data


Table of Contents

Introduction & Data Overview

How to Approach Startup Engagement 2

Survey Data 4

Advice on Startup Engagement 6

Learnings from Startup Collaborations 11

Sample Titles and Departments 17

Guidance & Tools

Roadmap: Effective Startup Engagement 19

Create An Innovation Win-Win: How Corporations & Startups Work Together 20


Anheuser-Busch InBev/ZX Ventures 23

BAE Systems 25


Boeing 27

Citi Ventures 28

Comcast NBCUniversal 29

CSAA Insurance 30

Galeries Lafayette/All Turtles 32

MetLife 34

New York Life 36

Royal DSM 37

Shell 39

The Shubert Organization 41

Suffolk Construction 42

United States Air Force 44