How to win with corporates

I have always held a strong belief in the outsize value of strategic partnerships. And I must confess it has been a frustrating pain to be part of and watch a lot of good intentions end in absolutely nothing.

I am by no means alone with that experience. In fact I think it’s fair to say that it’s more the rule than the exception that these partnerships between corporates and startups don’t work. The excitement at signing is almost inversely related to the feeling of frustration and banging your head against the wall, once the partnership has to be implemented to start delivering on all the promises.

But it can be done. One startup, I have worked with over the last few months, has managed to get to a winning formula, and I thought I wanted to take this opportunity to share some of my learnings from it in the hope that you might use them to improve your own prospects with getting a great return on your strategic partnerships.

The first thing to consider is whether or not what you’re doing solves a real pain that the corporate has. Yes, we all know that big corporations can struggle with innovation, but that’s not where the real potential lies. Due to the law of big numbers, it makes much more of a dent in the corporate structure, if you can help them sell more or what they are already selling.

In essence that means that if you have something that makes the corporates product better in itself or provides leads for more sales of their existing product by giving their sales people cloud cover to reengage with their customers with something new and exciting, you could have something that is very valuable to a strategic partnership. But you need to have it mapped out beforehand in order to put yourself in the strongest possible position for identifying the right partner and do the hard negotiations.

If you succeed in coming up with a partnership, the hard work truly starts. A lot of startups mistakenly think that it’s all about teaching the corporate to adapt to their more lean and efficient way of doing things, but I honestly don’t think that’s the case. What I see working is in fact more the opposite; that the more you can factor in how they work in your own process and be open, transparent and accountable about it, the easier it will be for the corporate to integrate you and your product in their offering – which is essentially the only recipe for commercial success with a corporate.

Finally, you need to ensure that incentives are aligned. No matter what the corporate might tell you, its a matter of fact that they are ruled by objectives. That also means that key stakeholders bonus plans are tied to objectives, and they will do whatever they can to succeed with those in order to get bonuses and promotions. Nothing else will really be touched. So be damn sure you understand their objectives, their KPIs and bonus targets, and do whatever you can to slot into that in the simplest possible way. Make it super easy for them to engage – the less they have to think about it the better – and you’ll be in a good position to achieve success.

Does all of the above mean that you always need to dance to the corporates tune? Well, if you want to succeed with a strategic partnership centered around marketing and sales with a big corporate, I think the answer is yes. The balance of power isn’t in your favor, and the only thing you get from insisting you’re equals is…nothing. Then it’s much better to just eat humble pie, focus on the end goal of making things work and making a solid profit. And then stick to the formula.

That should enable you to consider frustrations over failed strategic partnerships a thing of the past.

(Photo by krakenimages on Unsplash)

Corona thoughts, part 8

Last night we did a first in my network group under the Danish Management Society (VL): We had our first virtual meeting, and we used it as a venue for getting a situation report from our various industries in the light of the corona epidemic.

It was super interesting and inspiring to hear from the members about how things look from their end. From the airline executive whose planes are on the ground with no timeslot for getting back to flying to the architects, who use the crisis as a recruiting opportunity for new employees they now find much easier to come by than just six weeks ago.

But what was really interesting was what people have learned from it all. From the banal truths about how working remote works over the development of new online offerings in the consulting industry to people worrying about the potential longer-term fallout for society and the world as a whole.

The meeting really reinforced my long held belief that if you’re looking for a radically different perspective on things, look outside your immediate circles. Look across industries, roles and everyday jobs to get that sense of inspiration that gets your own mind going. That’s where you can get a ton of value.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Meetup’s remote moment

Yesterday, I received a couple of invites for upcoming Meetups of groups that I am a member of. I am thinking that it must be auto-generated reminders, since actually meeting up in person right about now would be in total conflict with the guidelines set forth by the Danish authorities.

And that got me wondering: Why is it that Meetup doesn’t use this opportunity to branch out with a remote, virtual offering? It may already exist somewhere in there (I haven’t digged around) but it seems so obvious: When we’re already working from home, many would have amble time to meet up virtually to share learnings, educate themselves and foster new connections going forward.

I furthermore believe that branching out with a remote option will make Meetup a much more interesting option for more people. Sometimes it can be a deal-breaker to have to show up physically for a meeting and where doing it from remote would enable more to chip in, expanding the footprint of the service and get more learning out there. It is so damn obvious.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Work-in-progress

Yesterday at inQvation we were honoured to get a visit from the brand new Incubation Studio team from LEGO Ventures. They are just setting out with some really cool people onboard, and they had asked if they could come and learn from our experiences, and of course they could. We are always willing to share and have a very transparent approach to the things we do, and the things we learn.

One of the things that came up during our discussion is how much work-in-progress it is to build a Studio-setup that works. Now, this doesn’t mean that we are doing random stuff every single day – we are most definitely not. But what it does mean is that nobody – not even the ones who claim they do – has a proven, repetitive model for how they make it work in all its fine print.

In fact, I don’t think you can create a model that works the same way every single time down to the tiniest detail. What you can do, however, is to create and fine tune an approach ‘above the water line’ so to speak, where you can communicate and replicate in broad terms, how your funnel for projects look. To that end to the naked eye it will look like a standardized approach, yet ‘below the water line’ it will be different tools, methods and learnings from time to time. I don’t think it can be in any other way.

(Photo: Pixabay.com)

Preparing for lift-off

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Photo: Pixabay.com

This website is getting a revamp. It will be all from scratch again. One experiment at a time.

From May 1 2019 and onwards, you can expect Tumblr-style (in)frequent blogging here. A mix of experiences experimenting, sharing of links on experimentation to develop new (juggernaut) businesses and what else, I can think of as relevant.

The form will be short. And hopefully sweet. Maximum 3 paragraphs of text. And on that note: I’ll be back!