Winning Together is a guide to successful corporate start-up collaboration, created by the ever innovative and informative UK innovation charity Nesta. Nesta is dedicated to supporting ideas that can help improve all our lives, with activities ranging from early–stage investment to in–depth research and practical programmes.
Based on the idea that innovation is ever changing and that start-ups are dramatically changing entire industries, particularly in the digital and technology industries, the guideto successful corporate start-up collaboration seeks to help corporate managers and executives.
The view behind the document is that corporate executives and managers can create value for their organisations, their customers and their entire sector by understanding what start-ups have to offer to their organisation. There is also an approach provided to help them to engage effectively with start-ups such as selecting the most appropriate programmes. The end goal is to empower those that are eager to engage start-ups inside their company by providing information that will help.
The report argues that: “No corporate manager can ignore start-ups.” As Giuseppe Zocco, the co–founder of Index Ventures says:
“Instead of thinking ‘some incumbents are gonna lose, some startups are gonna win’, startups should be seen as potential partners. Partners to create more value for your company, more value for the consumer, and for the whole industry.”
Start-ups are transforming industries
The reason given for this is that start-ups, as we have already mentioned, are transforming industries. They are gaining billion dollar valuations and casting aside long time business models. They are digitised, they have energy and they are entrepreneurial. They are poised to move quickly. These start-ups are not just competition, they could also be partners. It is suggested that this could bring benefits for both sides. Large companies have market knowledge, while small companies have great ideas and fresh talent. Large companies also have more resources, at least at the very outset. In fact, it is explained that sensible companies are already seeking such partners. Companies such as Coca-Cola and Unilever, as well as those you’d expect like Google and Microsoft are looking proactively for ways to work with start-ups.
Three steps to collaborate with start-ups
The report moves on to suggesting ways to get started. The first is explained to be clarification of objectives. Organisations need to understand why they want to work with start-ups and what they hope to achieve from it. Possible objectives include rejuvenating corporate culture, innovating big brands, solving business problems and finding ways to expand into new markets. The next step is thinking about the programme options. It is argued that there are various possibilities with this. For example there are
The next step is thinking about the programme options. It is argued that there are various possibilities with this. For example there are one-off events such as competitions, looking at ways to share resources such as free tools and co-working spaces, providing business support through accelerators or incubators, developing partnerships such as product co-development or procurement from start-ups, investment such as corporate venturing and acquisitions, which means buying start-ups. The third step is connecting potential resources. After all corporates have resources to bring that can breathe life into
The third step is connecting potential resources. After all corporates have resources to bring that can breathe life into start-ups, such as cash that can be used to pay for events and programme costs as well as to provide investments. There is also the possibility of offering employee time, at all levels within the organisation. There are products that can be offered to start ups for free or at a preferential price through programmes. Aside from this there are intangible assets including customer networks and market assets. All of this presents great opportunities that can help to attract start-ups, especially since many are so short of their own resources.
Success stories of corporate start-ups collaborations
Nesta cites many success stories that readers of the report can peruse to see the types of benefits that can be gained. In rejuvenation of corporate culture, Dell and Google provide two examples. With innovating big brands, Telefonica and Accenture are two examples. Solving business problems was achieved by Unilever and Diageo when working with start ups, and expanding into future markets was achieved by BMW and Enel. These are just some of the examples that the report offers. As explained, the case studies offer insight into how start up programmes can be managed effectively inside start-ups. They also show new incentive structures that corporates have established to maximise the effects of working with start ups. In addition, simplified processes that corporates can introduce to make collaboration easier for start ups are also shared.
Without a doubt for any organisation that even has the glimmer of an idea that working with a start up would be beneficial, the Nesta Winning Together report is a very practical and actionable read. As well as the structure and framework provided for partnerships and working together, the case studies show what can be done when great minds come together.
Paula Newton is a business writer, editor and management consultant with extensive experience writing and consulting for both start-ups and long established companies. She has ten years management and leadership experience gained at BSkyB in London and Viva Travel Guides in Quito, Ecuador, giving her a depth of insight into innovation in international business. With an MBA from the University of Hull and many years of experience running her own business consultancy, Paula’s background allows her to connect with a diverse range of clients, including cutting edge technology and web-based start-ups but also multinationals in need of assistance. Paula has played a defining role in shaping organizational strategy for a wide range of different organizations, including for-profit, NGOs and charities. Paula has also served on the Board of Directors for the South American Explorers Club in Quito, Ecuador.