In my last article
, I found that commercialization programs were the best programs to achieve a win-win situation for both the corporate and for the startup. And as you’ll see from my article series I’m an avid supporter of collaborating with corporates as a means of growth for your startup - something I regularly refer to as “Dancing with Elephants”. And while there are many corporates (elephants) out there running various different programs, you should be very careful in choosing the right elephant. They are the largest land animal in the world; ride it the right way, and it will carry you a great distance. But the elephant is also one of the most dangerous animals in the world, if you fail to climb the elephant it can easily crush you and anyone that stands in its way. Climb the wrong elephant and it will divert you off your route into an oblivion.
In this article I will discuss how to make sure you are choosing the right corporate (elephant) and the right corporate program to really benefit your startup:
Are you ready for the ride?
Startups are resourceless and corporates are time-consuming so this is the first question you should ask yourself - are you ready for the ride? And be completely honest. Do you have the capabilities to scale up and function at the level required by a corporate? With the average Days Payable Outstanding term for a corporate being 3 months do you have the funds to cover the costs that occur from delayed payments? Do you have the right and needed manpower to handle the operations? Understand the time and cost implications for your startup - having a corporate as one of your first customers can often end up costing the startup more money than the deal generates.
Understand the corporate interest
Getting to know the corporate is essential to choosing the program, as I explained above, climb the wrong elephant and it will divert you off your route! Educate yourself about the corporate that is hosting the program, by researching the corporate executives, reading their blogs, PR’s and interviews, or if it’s a public company you can check the shareholder reports. Understand the philosophy, goals or yearly KPI’s to try to understand if there is a real business incentive behind the corporate program, or if it’s just a PR trick or maybe a lip service to show that the organization is innovative.
Can you create a win-win situation?
Once you have understood the corporate interest, you should make sure that you can truly generate a win-win scenario for both your startup and the corporate. Establish whether the corporate needs are aligned with your product roadmap and target market. Make sure that the corporate is helping your image and that the relationship will raise the overall valuation of the startup. On the corporate side, verify that your product really solves the problem of the business units and also that the relationship between the startup and the different business units serves the success KPI’s of the corporate program, therefore also creating a win for the corporate program team.
The program management and its position in the organization
A program that gets attention from the corporate leadership will get better results. The program management team are the ones that really make the program; they are the ones who push the program and its participants throughout the organization. They will facilitate introductions and will make sure to get you in the door of every business unit that is relevant to your startup. Try to learn about their personality; are they problem solvers that make thing happens? What is their background - have they ever founded a startup? Have they served as a corporate executive? What’s their experience on the technological side? The business side? And lastly check that they have a solid network inside of the organization, that they are connected to the right people and the right decision makers.
The alumni program
Since the sales cycle for a corporate can last anywhere between 12 to 36 months, even if the program creates some kind of a shortcut, the chances are that it will take longer than the program period, hence the importance of a good alumni support system. Having the ability to maintain a post-graduation relationship with the corporate and the program team is essential.
ALWAYS do Due Diligence
Perform at least as much due diligence on the corporate program as they will do on you. Check for failure and success stories, talk to previous program participants and ask about their experience - the plan vs the actual, the program team, the organization and try to validate all the points discussed in the above paragraphs. If this is the first batch of the program then speak to startups who already sell to this corporate. Find out if you need to relocate? If so does the city have a startup community there that understands your particular industry and can help you scale? Don't be shy to ask the program managers about which business units they’ll be connecting you to both within the organization and in their partners’ network during the interview - it’s crucial. Also verify that these business units are relevant to your product/solution (e.g. while you may assume that a large soft drinks company is always in search of marketing solutions, you could find out that they are more interested in an operational solution for managing their large fleet of trucks and vice versa)
There are perks and benefits that come with commercialization programs. These may include - workspace - saving you valuable money on renting office space, funding - a personal choice for each and every startup, and many more resources depending on each corporate and each program, but remember, all of these are perks, they are not the true value - the true and most important offering from a corporate commercialization program is access to business units.
Commercialization programs are the best type of corporate program - each and every business unit serves as a potential customer to the startup - and access to a willing pool of customers is invaluable at this early stage in the company’s journey. It was through Coca-Cola’s commercialization program The Bridge that my company SCREEMO has now worked with Coca-Cola’s business units in more than 15 countries. Additionally, The Bridge team connected us and opened the door to SAP who is now also a valued customer of ours.
If you are a corporate executive or just want to understand the corporate angle you should stay tuned for my next article where I’ll be giving corporates some practical tips and best practices on how to select startups to participate in the program.
Adir Zimerman is a multicultural entrepreneur and a keynote speaker. He is the co-founder and CEO of SCREEMO
. By implementing a unique enterprise sales approach Adir grew SCREEMO into a global company operating in North America, Europe and APAC with fortune 500 companies including: Walmart, Coca-Cola, Microsoft and more.