A little startup and an old-school corporation, as it turns out, can be a match made in heaven — the tough part is developing that partnership and making it stick.
That was the topic of last week’s panel discussion held by Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) and the Greater Philadelphia Alliance for Capital and Technologies (PACT) at Quorum at the University City Science Center. Panelists came from both sides of the business world. Two panelists — Cloudmine CEO Brendan McCorkle and SunGard Availability Services program manager Cristina Greysman — were actually in the midst of a working out a potential partnership between Cloudmine and SunGard, giving a real-life look at how these kinds of partnerships develop.
It’s a mutually beneficial relationship, the panelists said. Having a big-name corporation as a client can legitimize a startup, said Greysman, while startups can help corporations innovate much faster than they could with their own staff.
Below, four tips from the panelists on how to hook a big corporation.
- Build trust. Corporations will only work with you if they trust you, said Coley Brown, cofounder of VisionMine, a new company that aims to connect corporations with useful startups. The panelists agreed that it can take a while to develop this kind of relationship. “It’s a courting process,” said Brown, who added, “Excuse the metaphor, I’m a dinosaur.”
- Find the decision-maker, but get a champion, too. It’s important to the find the person who will actually give the go-ahead, Brown said. Yorn founder Rick Rasansky agreed, urging startups to do their homework before they approached a corporation and not to feel “bashful” about asking lots of questions to find the appropriate person. McCorkle made a case for finding a champion within the corporation, even if that person isn’t the decision maker (at this point, he gave a little nod to Greysman).
- Size matters. Corporations can see a startup’s small size as a red flag, Greysman said, so talk about your experience and credentials in order to get your size out of their head. For McCorkle, whose startup has ten staffers, he said that in his experience, some corporations don’t immediately ask how big your startup is, so it doesn’t hurt to present yourself as a slightly larger company. “Act like you’re fighting up a weight class and they might believe you,” McCorkle said.
- Outcomes are important. “In a large company, you are nothing but a budget line,” said Iron Mountain software engineer Lev Greysman, “unless you can demonstrate success.” Cristina Greysman echoed this point, saying that in a big corporation, a startup’s work could be cut out of the budget at any time, so prove your worth. (Lev Greysman is married to Cristina Greysman.)