LivingLens is one of the businesses taking part in the PlatformX accelerator that Virgin StartUp and Virgin Trains East coast have partnered to create. For the next weeks the businesses will be working closely with innovation experts to scale up and develop their ideas. Here Kat Hounsell of LivingLens describes how the experience is going so far - click here to read about how their first week went.

In this week’s session at Virgin Trains + Platform-X accelerator programme delivered by Virgin StartUp we focussed on the relationship between corporates and start-ups. On the surface, it can appear like a battle between the corporate, Goliath type giants and the smaller start-ups, the Davids. In a battle, there is usually a winner and a loser, but there must be a better way. A way for both to be victorious.

Corporates have the budgets. Working with one corporate can often be the stepping stone that a start-up needs to broaden their customer base and see consistent revenues. Start-ups offer agility and fresh ideas that corporates can capitalise on where internal innovation is challenging. Although both sides have so much to gain, the relationship can often take a bumpy path. There is the potential for the relationship to end even before it has really got going.

Joe Scarboro of Touchpaper gave us some great insight into how these two contrasting company types can come together to deliver a great outcome for everyone. He revealed that as a start-up there are several indicators that you can look for to see if a corporate might be the right one for you to work with as well as some warning signs!

  • Look for corporates with established programmes or those who have worked with start-ups before. The process is likely to be smoother
  • Programmes geared around challenges make it easy for you to establish if you are a good fit. If your solution doesn’t align well with their problem, consider the time and effort you need to put in
  • Look for corporates that signpost their intentions clearly. If they are looking to acquire companies, but that isn’t your goal, you know to walk away
  • In a large organisation, buy-in is key to get things moving. If you’ve only got one contact this should be a red flag

Remember it’s a two-way street so here are some other things that you can do to help with the process.

  • Know what you want to get out of the relationship. If the corporate hasn’t signposted their intentions, ask the questions and make your intentions clear
  • It’s easy to focus on your side of the equation, but a little empathy can go a long way to finding a path through. Think how you might be able to make the process easier for you both
  • Think about the end-game not just trial period. This can really save you time and effort in the long run and avoid frustrations and delays with rolling out a full programme
  • They might be big, but corporates are made up of people too, so don’t be afraid to talk to them.

Being part of a programme such as the Platform-X accelerator has so many advantages. One major one is the guidance and support through the processes including the business case, legal and procurement. They want the relationship to work as much as we do so have geared up all the relevant departments to engage with us, support us and guide us through the processes.

Not all relationships will be a success, but if we can approach them less like a battle, there is every chance of a win-win.

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