Playbook for Successful Corporate Partnerships


Corporates, with access to capital, markets and tech know-how, are obvious partners to help startups succeed. Yet despite the recognized importance of partnerships, actually finding a partner and nurturing a successful partnership can be challenging. On February 12, we hosted a webinar to discuss this topic and get feedback from top investors and corporates in the field. Stephan Dolezalek from VantagePoint Capital Partners, Gil Demeter from Qualcomm Ventures, and Bharat Ramakrishnan from Applied Materials talked about their own experiences and advice for startups looking to partner with corporates. Here are some of the key takeaways from the webinar:

Have an internal champion – The biggest point that Stephan, Gil, and Bharat made was that individual champions at the corporate are key to making partnerships happen. Those champions will pitch your company, debate any doubters, and be your defender throughout the process. He or she will be personally and professionally invested in the partnership and push to make the partnership successful.

Diversify and strengthen your personal relationships – Not only do you need a champion; you need a variety of people within the corporate with interest in making the partnership work. Personnel change fairly frequently; diversity of relationships ensures the partnership can weather changes without a problem. Strong personal relationships also ensure that people will take the time to transition you to their successor when they leave.

Find partners involved early and often – Partners are going to give key feedback on your market strategy, your technology, and generally all parts of your business. Some startups worry about disclosing too much information and having it leak out to the corporate, which may be in a competitive area. However, Stephan mentioned that he couldn’t think of a single instance of a corporate taking advantage of disclosed proprietary information. Making a partnership is always a leap of faith, but the potential for downside is usually outweighed by the potential upside.

Manage your partnership carefully – Although startups should ink partnerships early and often, they should be prepared to weather changes in strategy and personnel at the corporate. Stephan brought up the example of Better Place, which had been working with Renault-Nissan on an electric car. When Renault-Nissan’s priorities changed, Better Place was stuck without a key market strategy. This again highlights the need for a diversity of relationships, both across a few corporates as well as within the corporate.

Corporates like Applied Materials and Qualcomm Ventures, and investors like VantagePoint, use i3 as part of their external innovation and investing efforts. Request an i3 demo today.