After thorough preparation and selection of the start-up, you are now ready to take the final and most important step – kick off the collaboration!
Accelerating the collaboration through support units
A quick start for the collaboration is desirable for both sides, but due to complex and bureaucratic processes, the commercial and technical integration of the start-up often requires a long time. Therefore remember to keep the aforementioned constraints of start-ups in mind, especially when it comes to financial liquidity, time or negotiation experience.
One strategy to accelerate the initiation process is to create standards or frameworks that can be applied to future collaborations (e.g. shorter contracts and different procurement rules). It is also advisable to involve your relevant departments (such as purchasing, legal and IT) at an early stage. This increases their commitment and can reveal potential hurdles earlier in the process.
Make employees part of the collaboration
The success of a start-up collaboration often depends on the involvement of all relevant stakeholders in your company. Processes and standards can only provide the framework for collaboration; for success, people are truly decisive. Therefore, you need promoters, people within your company with the right mind-set to establish trustworthy collaborations.
How can you, as an established company, win promoters for the start-up collaboration?
A first step is to win individual employees or entire departments which are open to the topic of collaboration.
Additionally, incentive systems will ensure that employees are motivated.
The start-up collaboration should not be an additional burden on employees; instead, commitment should be rewarded.
Promoters should receive recognition in staff appraisals or have opportunities to present on successful collaborations at events.
The collaboration framework needs to enable promoters to experiment and take risks.
Manage pilot projects
Pilot projects, also called Proof-of-Concept (POC), have proven to be a good starting point for long-term collaborations. During a pilot project, the start-up solution can easily be tested and integrated in a controllable area.
Prior to a pilot project, a clear framework should be established, for which we recommend the following points:
A common vision and mission statement for the project, based on the goal
Expectations and needs of the project
Scope and content of the project
An agreement to exchange needed resources with reasonable deadlines
A non-disclosure agreement (NDA) for securing confidential information
Next steps of the successful pilot project
Agreed working mode
A clear and reasonable timeline with deadlines
Milestones to track critical steps
Clear KPIs, based on which the success of the project can be measured objectively
Clear deliverables for each side, modalities and formalities of communication and frequency of interaction
Measure success – KPI’s and NFKPI’s
The definition of performance indicators is critical, since the start-up collaboration must deliver measurable results. Why would you or the start-up pursue the collaboration otherwise?
On the one hand, KPIs are always introduced to measure the success of a collaboration. On the other hand, sticking to only one dimension brings with it the risk of missing out on innovation potential. To avoid this, we recommend adjusting the KPIs for every single collaboration. By doing so you create the possibility to measure what both parties want to achieve.
It should also be noted that non-financial KPIs such as customer feedback can also give an indication of whether the project will be successful in the long-run.
In general, collaboration partners should look for a mixture of financial and non-financial indicators.
Strengthen the collaboration
Even though you have already worked with the start-up, keep in mind that it requires ongoing effort to keep the connection viable and to enable a strategic partnership. To support you also in this task, we have developed some guidelines for a long-term and healthy cooperation.
Develop vision and mission
Embed the collaboration internally
Review your collaboration strategy
Incorporate the collaboration process in the organisation structures
Above all, make sure you and all relevant stakeholders have a joint understanding of the motivation (why) and goal (what) behind a specific collaboration. This and the following recommendations can help you to incorporate the collaboration process into your organisational structure:
Foster internal networking between relevant stakeholders.
Involve department or business unit stakeholders early and before details are pitched to upper management; take the necessary time for a gradual cultivation of mind-set.
Consider relevant company and department objectives from the initiation of the collaboration.
Gain top-level management support to enable the relevant department managers and stakeholders to re-prioritise if necessary.
Setup and enable (e.g. train and coach) an agile project team with entrepreneurial responsibility. Implement regular reviews of processes based on meaningful joint milestones instead of "old" established KPIs.
Ensure funding until ROI with a central budget for start-up/innovation projects.
Transform and adapt relevant KPIs and resource planning step-by-step with specific projects to test them.
Please feel free to download the following template to support your successful collaboration
We hope to have provided you with insights and a general overview of how to make start-up collaboration work.