Taking your ideas to a huge company can be a scary prospect – but it’s easy to forget established businesses need to innovate to stay ahead.
Today we give you an insider’s take on how to get a foot through those intimidatingly shiny doors.
Most startups would have identified potential corporate relationships somewhere in their business model. It’s often written down as ‘potential partners’, but really means, “I want to market my product to your customer base because it’s huge”. And there’s nothing wrong with that.
If you are trying to build the next Amazon Echo, then a focussed sales mindset is to be admired. But there’s an important question that the corporate is also asking; “Why would we?”
Corporates want to innovate
What’s true for most corporations today is they are eager to create new business lines. This helps them generate new value to shareholders – particularly the case in mature markets – where squeezing profit out of the existing business is much harder. So innovation is the buzz word right now and a lot of forward-thinking corporations are creating their own Labs in a bid to innovate.
But as we know, big established corporates are generally slow to innovate – and this is where you come in. You have an idea, but more importantly, the agility and deep tech knowledge to implement it.
When selecting a corporate, you need to ask yourself, ‘who could really add value to this’ and ’what do they have that I don’t?’ If your only answer is ‘a big customer base’, it’s going to be a hard slog. You need to think beyond the obvious. For instance, a telco has a mobile network, clearly, but they also have trained staff, the ability to bill people, a brand that people trust, deep customer data and a supply chain – which are all incredibly powerful assets. So you need to know how your business, in partnership, might be able to leverage these.
Pick your timing
Don’t come to a corporate with just an idea on the back of a napkin – come in with a real product and some proven traction. Show us that people love your concept through validated research, an MVP or at least a working prototype supported by a pipeline. You need to clearly demonstrate the effort you’ve put behind the concept – robust startup/corporate partnerships aren’t built on a foundation of vague ideas.
Find a side entrance
If you’re targeting a large company, you just need to find the best entry point – for Optus, it’s the Yes Lab. Innovation hubs like ours are an incubator for great ideas – manned by people who think, act and budget like a start-up. The only difference is that they can tap into the skills and funds of other internal teams when you’re ready to scale – handy people to know.
Make the move
This sounds obvious, but it’s easy to forget that corporates are just people. This means LinkedIn, email, phone and saying ‘Hi’ at industry events are all great ways to get in touch. But make sure you’re clear on your objectives for touching base – do you want schedule in a full-blown presentation or just a casual coffee catch up? Strike while the iron’s hot and secure that face to face.
Create some chemistry
No amount of sophisticated tech can compete with a great interpersonal connection. A corporate isn’t just partnering with your business, they’re partnering with you. And conversely, if you’re not getting the right vibe, don’t feel pressured to collaborate.
The rest relies on market appetite, a great pitch and an innovative idea. And if you happen to have all three, we know just the lab to call…