Step 2
Get Ready to Collaborate

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If you are planning to collaborate with an established company, you need to be prepared. Below, we will provide you and your start-up with necessary information and helpful templates to get ready.

Conduct market reasearch

If you are preparing for collaboration with an established company, it is very important to know your business environment and certain characteristics. Consider the following three aspects of your market research in order to be as prepared as possible.

Understand how exactly your solution can add value to your target group and how you can best convey this value.

Use your network – find people who are currently working (or have worked) at companies you wish to target. Be sure to also use intermediaries, such as investors or incubators/accelerators, effectively when preparing for your pitch! They often have great insights into how to convince corporates.

Don’t forget to do your desk research!

You need to be 100% sure when it comes to your competitors and how you are better than them. Find numbers to support your pitch, e.g. potential cost-savings or additional revenue.

A sales pitch shouldn’t be the first time you speak to an established company!

Make sure that you gather market feedback before you approach a corporate trying to convince them to work with you or sell your product. This includes non-sales-oriented conversations with industry experts and potential buyers.

We highly recommend repeating these steps frequently in order to keep yourself up to date!

Set up internal structures

During the preparation phase, you should make sure to have the resources and structures in place to successfully and efficiently work with corporates. Among others thing, consider the following aspects:

  • Make sure you have enough experienced or trained resources in your sales team.

  • Think about service levels and customer support.
    Make sure that your sales and product teams are aligned on what you can and can’t offer; otherwise you might end up in a situation where you can’t deliver on what you’ve promised, which will show you in a bad light.

  • Do not underestimate the administrative effort that is involved in working with corporates, who often require you to adhere to certain standards, such as quality assurance.

Define your targets

Another important step during the preparation process is to define potential collaboration partners.

We recommend the following four-step procedure:

1. Compile a longlist of potential partners

2. Cluster them (e.g. according to their position on the value chain or industry)

Note: Below you will find our “Get ready to collaborate Canvas template” which may help you with this task

3. Think about the advantages you can bring to each cluster.

This includes your value proposition, but also which unique selling points you offer to the clusters

4. Rank the companies on the longlist according to their attractiveness to your start-up.

Take into consideration the strategic fit and the intensity of the pain point/opportunity you are addressing with your solution, but also try to find out about their track record with start-ups.

Think outside the box and gather not only the big and known names, but also smaller, more specialised companies. Both come with certain advantages.

Big companies

While bigger names have the obvious advantage of being a great reference if you can win them as partners, they are usually approached by many start-ups, so competition can be tough there. Furthermore, large corporates tend to have rather slow and bureaucratic processes and generally require a lot of documentation, aggravating cultural differences that can lead to challenges in the collaboration. However, they frequently have dedicated start-up programs, which can give you a clear entry way into the organisation and they also often offer additional goodies like dedicated training.

Smaller, specialiced companies

Smaller companies, on the other hand, are often leaders in their field and can thus offer a lot of technological expertise and a big network. Since they are smaller and usually more agile, the cultural differences aren’t as big and processes usually run a lot faster. However, these companies are frequently quite new to the “start-up-game” and might not be as open to collaborating with a young company. They also quite rarely have dedicated touchpoints for start-ups, so you might have to contact a couple of people to find the right person to talk to.

Gain visibility

One pitfall of start-ups is that young companies are often rather unknown. Start-ups need public attention for their innovation, so they can better position themselves on the market and become more attractive to their customers and potential partners. But as a new and unknown player this is not so easy!

Appearances at trade fairs, publications in scientific journals and participation in innovation and start-up competitions can help to increase your visibility. Lighthouse projects can also present your own product in an emotionally interesting and attractive way, thereby benefitting your company’s success, even if they do not lead directly to sales!

Reality check

To gather every bit of relevant information is a time-intensive task and can be an organisational headache. Therefore, we have created a canvas template to give you some support with this challenge. The canvas helps you not only to keep track of important aspects, but also provides you with a realistic indication of what the collaboration will look like.

The canvas can be separated into internal and external aspects. Each of these aspects contains different elements, as shown below.

External Aspects

  • Collaboration partner

  • Goal of the collaboration

  • Added value for the collaboration partner

  • Added value for you

Internal Aspects

  • Non-negotiable aspects

  • Non-shareable information

  • Internal Structures

  • Internal resources

If you are ready for the reality check – please feel free to download the template:

  • Best Practice Example from Corporate Start-up Accelator SAP.iO Foundry Munich

    We believe that it can be very helpful to change the point of view from time to time. Therefore, we chose SAP, a German company acting globally, to describe their perspective on the collaboration-preparation process, and Philippe Soudi, the head of SAP.iO Foundry Munich, gave us his top four tips to prepare yourself for your next collaboration.

    Find out more


Please feel free to download the following templates and use them to keep on track during the complex phase of preparation.

Get ready to collaborate Canvas

Fill in as much information as possible before approaching a collaboration partner.

USP Mapping

This unique selling proposition example by Digitalya helps you to formulate all aspects that distinguish you from your competitors.

Kopie von Getty Images 184313912

Have a look back at step 1

Find your reasons why
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Continue your journey with step 3

Contact the corporate