The benefits of corporate partnerships with startups and scale-ups

Written by Irenej Brumec

Every year more corporations are establishing new initiatives aimed at potential partnerships with startups. These provide them with an increased ability to innovate and work with emerging technologies while providing the startups with access to infrastructure, funding, industry experts and market access.

However, while the benefits of such partnerships are numerous, most do not come to fruition. A moderator, which can establish a common language between the parties, as well as understand the goals, opportunities, and risks of both sides is often necessary. This is one of the many roles ABC accelerator fulfills.

At a glance, a startup transforming its vision into a reality and becoming a well-established company seems easily achievable. Naturally, if one has a great idea or a solution to an existing problem, it can become all too easy to dismiss the troubles and think: why on earth wouldn’t it work?

The reasons for this may vary; lack of experience, riding the wave of hype around a new technology and the general necessity within a young startup to be confident enough to dismiss naysayers. More often than not it’s a combination of these, which results in a company, free from the rigid rules of the corporate world and with no strict structure, where everything seems possible.

Unfortunately, this mentality may be the reason, explaining the low numbers of truly successful startups. The path from a startup to a scale-up is usually paved with thorns and many sleepless nights – it is far from the fairy-tale scenario that is often painted afterward.

One of the most common misconceptions about business success is, that in order to achieve it one needs proper funding first. The path that leads a startup to a scaleup, however, isn’t necessarily based only on the companies economics, but must also include a strong philosophical reason, their “why?”.

Numbers alone cannot add up to the right repeatable and scalable business model which would work as the startup’s solution. If things were that easy, many more would succeed, and even if they did succeed, they might not achieve sustainable growth in the identified business model later on.

The reality is, that why one does something is much more important than what one does. That’s something more experienced and bigger corporations have figured out. In order to preserve that state of mind, they have put themselves into a cocoon of indifference when it comes to new ideas.  Therefore, when we’re discussing corporate partnerships with scaleup companies, one can easily see that there are benefits on both sides.

From an established corporation’s point of view, startups seem like a universe of fresh ideas and possibilities. If all is as it should be, the conceptual framework of the startup’s activities shows that they can act fast, adapt quickly to changes and implement different solutions in a relatively short time. Their team dynamics indicate that innovation and an open mind take the first place. Even after the startup upgrades to a so-called scaleup, the changes within the company aren’t radical or lead to such inflexibility as found in corporations, where one needs the approval of five board members to even sneeze.

Successful scaleups, on the other hand, see – or at least should see – established corporations as companies to look up to. Unless they get absorbed into one, they too have to eventually establish guidelines that will preserve their company’s existence in the long run.

Corporations are also an infinite well of great mentors, infrastructure and influence. Everything that scaleup and startup companies are in dire need for.

What seems to be a match made in heaven, however, often fails in practice. While both, startup and corporate companies belong to the same universe, they don’t speak the same language. Their goals may be identical, but the way they articulate is entirely different. This is also one of the premises on which ABC Accelerator was built; we took it upon ourselves to become a translator between these groups. With joint effort from all of the involved parties, we have conceptualized a program that covers all of the segments for businesses.

ABC’s partners for our 2019 program, namely BTC, Enaa, Triglav, Telekom, and Petrol, have the ability to provide much more than just investment.

Long gone are the days when BTC represented only shopping malls and the logistics center of Ljubljana. With their successful transformation into a digital city, they have paved the way for the startups to test their solutions first hand. With the provided infrastructure and mentoring, it’s a dream come true for any startup. The same goes for EnaA, where startups can test their product on the largest e-commerce platform. Telekom, who provide their services, including system integration and cloud computing services infrastructure, for viable companies in the program.

The potential collaborative partnerships have many benefits for both parties. One could, for example, digitalize the existing basic activity with Telekom’s IT solution. One of the most important benefits, however, is the opportunity to learn from each other. Only this way both of the parties can prepare for and accept future changes with arms wide open. The reality is, that a single change can have a great influence on the behavior of the industry in the future. This is why it’s important that both, the startup and corporate world, tread together hand in hand on the journey to discovering the next big solution and its implementation.

Only with this kind of symbiosis both of them can preserve themselves and their influence in their chosen industry. Not so long ago everybody in the business talked about “the explosion of startups”, while one could argue that we are currently witnessing a new era. The era in which innovative solutions are not anymore a threat to the established business models, but when all of them unite for the greater goal of running successful businesses.