Four ways to make your startup-corporate relationship work

It is more alarming. Most startups don’t make it past their first few years in business, for a range of reasons. The idea that small businesses can form working relationships with large corporations is becoming more popular, and there are potential benefits for symbiotic relationships.

This theory is fantastic. The theory is great. Startups have steady income streams and can access markets to distribute their products. Corporates are more innovative and agile through new energy, products, and services. It sounds like a match made in heaven – but it’s vital that the rules of the game, and the framework for the engagement, are made clear upfront.

How do you make corporate-startup relationships work well? There are four things you need to check.

  • Do the hardwork and do your homework

Many successful small businesses appear to be overnight successes – but nobody sees the years of late-night toil and grinding away that got the business to this point. Startups fail most often because they don’t have a distribution plan. While scale can be a benefit from partnering with corporations, you must understand how your product will help them and their customers. You also need to make sure you follow the right processes.

It’s also important to know, and recognize, what each party brings to the table. Corporates can offer customers scale, trust, an established brand, strong infrastructure, deep experience and expert, and access to powerful data. Startups and early-stage companies offer agility, greater risk appetite, simplicity, speed, and a disruptive mindset.

  • Get in touch with the right people

For a startup to succeed in a relationship with a big corporate, it’s critical to have an internal champion that is passionate about the partnership’s value. The person must be able to negotiate the bureaucracy and have the ability to connect the startup with the right business unit to benefit from its products or services.

As a startup founder, it’s important that you have one person managing the relationship. This will show that you value the relationship. A senior person can identify new opportunities and help them to take the company forward. This will ensure a deeper integration of the startup into the corporate.

  • Define clear, quantifiable success metrics

It’s critical that corporates and startups align on values, measurable goals, what success looks like, and the timeline. It is important to include time-bound, specific and measurable objectives for the project in your timeline. A real victory that deepens the partnership is becoming a line item on the response team’s scorecard. It’s of huge benefit for the start-up to understand how this works, as it assists output and creates significantly better alignment.

  • Continue to work on the relationship

There is an initial honeymoon period, but once the partnership has established itself, the product or service will become part of your daily business. It is crucial to keep your relevance. Establish a meeting schedule and reporting routine and follow it. Build relationships so that if someone leaves the company, you will still be able to communicate with them.

Relationships are crucial as South Africa responds the COVID-19 pandemic. If we can carry this collaborative spirit through our social, political, and economic environments, then not only will startups, small businesses and corporates flourish together, but South Africa’s entire ecosystem as well.

Get latest news from African Startup ecosystem

Latest stories

You might also like...