What’s a ‘Reverse Pitch,’ and How Can It Help Attract the Best Startups?

Innovation executives from Samsung, Embraer, Manulife, and Shell presented “reverse pitches.”

By Kelsey Alpaio, Assistant Editor

Learning how to pitch an idea in a concise and persuasive manner has always been an essential skill for entrepreneurs. It’s how they get funding, win distribution deals, and eventually convert customers. But how often are big companies the ones in the hot seat?

At Corporate Innovation Night, hosted by the Venture Café in Cambridge last month, the tables were turned on seven multinational corporations, including Samsung, Manulife, Embraer, Shell, General Motors, GE, and Merck KGaA. Innovation and corporate venture capital leaders from these organizations gave 5-minute “reverse pitches,” highlighting their innovation initiatives, how they want to work with the startup ecosystem, and what types of technologies and solutions they’re looking for.

Startups with high-potential technology are often looking for large corporate partners, but they do tend to steer clear of companies that seem bureaucratic, opaque, and slow-moving. So how can you ensure that your company will come off as an appealing collaborator? Take a listen to the sample reverse pitches below, from Samsung and Shell TechWorks, and keep these tips in mind:

  • It’s not enough to ramble about this year’s strategic plan, and where your group fits in a vast organizational chart. Describe what specific technologies and solutions you’re looking to invest in, or bring into the organization. If you have some specific business problems you’d like to get help with, even better.
  • Be clear about the types of partnerships you’re looking for (i.e. investment, accelerator, beta tester, etc…) and how intellectual property issues will be handled.
  • Startups can be wary of corporate partnerships that will slow them down or flood them with legal documents. Make sure to describe how a startup can get involved with ease.
  • Make it clear who the point of contact is for entrepreneurs interested in working with you. This person’s name and email address shouldn’t be considered classified info.

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