Culture is king and word is bond. Once you start working together, it’s of vital importance to commit to a set of shared goals that work bidirectional, from the traditional company to the startup and vice versa:
1. BE COMMITED, IT’S NOT A GAME
For the company it’s important to understand that your collaboration will have a fundamental impact on the startup. For them it’s often live or die, they’re setting their hopes on the project so you have to make sure to deliver upon the expectations on your end. If you promise to give mentorship, come prepared and be relevant, if you promise to open up your network, make sure to make the right introductions etc. Word is bond.
For the startup it’s important to understand you’re not just playing around with the goodwill or funds of the company you’re partnering with. Take the collaboration dead serious as it might be your window of opportunity. Don’t wait to apply the knowledge you receive, get in touch with the contacts that are being made, and move!
2. DON’T FUCK UP THEIR CULTURE
Never expect the other party to become like you. A corporate will never be a startup and vice versa. You can help each other in a positive way via ‘reverse mentorship’: what can you learn from each other without believing your way is the best way? Can you pair up people in the same position with different backgrounds and expertise.
3. BE TRANSPARENT
Whenever you start a collaboration you probably have an agenda in mind of what you want to achieve. Maybe you want to take over the company at a later stage, maybe you want to invest more in a next round, maybe it’s just an experiment and you don’t really know what comes after.. be transparent about that. Open communication creates trust.
The same applies to the startup, why do you want to partner? Are you looking for an exit? Do you want to grow faster? Do you want to add credibility to your product? Unfortunately the agendas are not disclosed in most cases, often leading to conflict later on.Operate like a glass house, being open always benefits the relationship. When expectations are clear, you can work together to achieve shared goals.
4. DEFAULT TO ‘YES’
Everyone is always busy and has restrictions to what they can do, but a strong collaboration requires flexibility and a mindset of saying ‘yes’ as often as you can.
You’re embarking on a journey together, and as always, some things won’t go as planned or can be challenging: a technology might not be compliant, an important last-minute meeting might not fit the agenda, a contract might not please both parties etc. Making things happen should always be the way forward though, be creative to find solutions and above all: always give it your best effort.
5. LEAD THE WAY
Once a collaboration is set up, both parties start looking at each other to get things going: who is going to make the first move? Often with a passive mindset: ‘they know where to find us when they need us’. That’s not the right way to create value for each other or to start a relationship.
You need to be proactive, don’t wait for the other party to take the initiative. Reach out as much as you can, help where you can, link where you can.
You have to lead the way and set the tone. It’ll be much harder to get things going later on if you had a slow start.
6. BE A STUDENT, NOT THE TEACHER
It’s always better to ask questions or to question things than to say what needs to be done differently. Try to understand the way of working, the logic of certain decisions and actions. Don’t assume incompetence or you will immediately get people on the defense.
Never refrain from giving your opinion afterwards, but first listen and try to understand. If your partner has a different approach, that’s great as you now have an opportunity to learn. You partner because you hope to extract value from each other (also in terms of culture and way of working), so don’t try to create a copy of yourself, see where you can complement each other instead.
7. PAY IT FORWARD
“People may not remember exactly what you did, or what you said, but they will always remember how you made them feel.” ~ Maya Angelou
If you can do something for your partner without expecting an immediate return, they will remember you for it and even try to overcompensate later on.
Paying it forward is a key mindset in the startup ecosystem: I help you now, and hopefully you will help me out later on. In a collaboration it’s essential not to question the ROI of every action, help out where you can and if both parties are committed, the favor will be returned later on.
If there is a heavy imbalance, make sure to discuss it and figure out why that is the case. Perhaps the other party (incorrectly) assumes they don’t have much to offer you
Corporate Venturing Book
The newest book of Dado Van Peteghem (from Duval Union Consulting) and Omar Mohout (Sirris) provides insights in the different strategies and tactics to accelerate innovation and growth through collaboration, as well as plenty of cases as examples where these methods are successfully applied. It’s a no-nonsense, ready-to-apply comprehensive guide for creating and reviewing your corporate venturing strategy as a strategic instrument to thrive in this fast changing world.
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