Collaboration between startups and corporates lies at the heart of innovation and success

Collaboration between startups and corporates lies at the heart of innovation and success

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Startups and large corporates are in a relationship where each can benefit from important assets from the other one. While startups have the skills, the tools, the entrepreneurial flair, and the focus, which help them accelerate, large corporates have the resources, the clients, the market expertise, and the power to grow innovations fast. VIVAT, one of the largest Dutch insurance companies, is trying to foster collaboration between the startup world and the corporate organization world through corporate startup engagement and corporate pilots. 

Corporate Startup Engagement

In order for a beneficial collaboration between startups and corporate organizations to be maintained, all kinds of issues should be constantly communicated between the two. For example, “lack of trust and mutual interest, not speaking each other’s language, legal and financial barriers, and completely different ways of working,” should not be allowed to impede a fruitful collaboration between the two worlds, Patrick de Zeeuw, co-founder of Startupbootcamp and Innoleaps, says.

Corporate Startup Engagement (CSE) brings about an innovative and at the same time pioneering collaboration. This collaboration is made possible by taking into consideration multiple perspectives, states Karel van Straaten, who is responsible for startup collaboration at VIVAT, a partner of the Startupbootcamp FinTech & CyberSecurity program in Amsterdam. According to him, it is essential to be interested not only in the content and the services that startups offer but also in the technology they use and the timing.

“It is very valuable for us to build a relationship with the startups and really understand each other,” Straaten explains. “We also help startups wherever we can. Mostly to learn and understand what works and what doesn’t work. But also to connect the startups where additional parties or skills are needed to collaborate.”

Fostering collaboration between startups and VIVAT

According to Straaten, an effective connection between the startups and VIVAT, stakeholder management with multiple players, is crucial because VIVAT gets a more holistic picture of the startups. It focuses not only on the technology that the startups offer, or the customers they serve but also on what problems internal clients might have. Then it connects the startups with their solutions.

When it comes to the decision of introducing and connecting the startups “with the right people at the right time” the most important factor is “chemistry”, Straaten highlights. “I make an educated guess about which stakeholder will personally match with the startup, resulting in more leverage as well.”

“Therefore, I’m happy that most of our general managers in the Netherlands (like Hans Visser, Fernando Hagel, Marcel van de Lustgraaf and our CCO – Wendy de Ruiter) fulfill the startup mentor role. They can learn from experience that understanding startups is the most important aspect of corporate startup engagement. It is about really believing in the startup’s vision and how we can help or in some cases, perhaps, deciding not to get involved (and that is fine as well).”

Intrapreneurs in Residence

As an Intrapreneur in Residence, Straaten summarizes the main goals of every IIR. In his view, helping startups grow is the most important one because only in this way startups can continue with the business where the competition is huge. It is also important that IIRs are aware of who they involve from within their organization. This means that they have to spend enough time to filter out the best value a startup can offer and serve it to the stakeholders. Straaten exemplifies: “I use a very simple strategy: 1) Introduce yourself to the startups, 2) Evaluate if there is something concrete you can offer with just enough leverage from potential stakeholders, 3) Assess if the startup is willing to work hard together to set up a potential pilot.”

Last but not least, corporate pilots are essential. “At the moment, we are running pilots with POM, Budgently, Encedo and Enterprise Bot (from Startupbootcamp London program). For every pilot, VIVAT arranges a small team with a small budget. Starting small is important, this makes the entrance level lower and forces the team to work in a ‘lean startup’ way.”

Straaten concludes that this is not an easy process. There is always the daily tension between running the business – the sale targets, and the innovation – investments. “Nevertheless, what I like about VIVAT is that we really want to help each other to foster innovation from the company-wide perspective. Our weekly Innovation Board sessions are just an example of that.”

Corporate vs startup image by Shutterstock

This story is powered by WEI ‘We empower Innovators’, which is the mission of Startupbootcamp, Innoleaps and The Talent institute. With Startupbootcamp we help startups grow fast in collaboration with corporates. With Innoleaps we help corporates and multinationals grow the mind,- skill and toolset required to operate effectively in the digital age. We empower large companies through radical business transformation, business model innovation and by overall cultivating a more entrepreneurial culture. With The Talent Institute we train employees of corporates in the new mind, skill and toolset to innovate fast and furious. More information? Contact Misha de Sterke, Chief Content Officer.

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