Five Tips for Working with Startups

March 2018

If you are an established organization that is considering running a pilot project with a startup, then you are seeing things from a somewhat different perspective than the startup. You know your industry, your business model, your priorities and your budget. Yet here’s this scrappy little startup telling you things that you may (or may not) already know and trying to convince you that they are critical to your future and that they see things out there that you may not yet be aware are problems.

For the organization, it’s important to remember a few key things regarding startups:

Startups are not small versions of big companies. Startups don’t have the time, money, resources, processes or anything that you are used to in a larger organization. Don’t treat them like a big company. Recognize them for what they are.

Startups have made a series of critical (and sometimes fatal) assumptions. Startups are often nothing more than a series of assumptions that must be validated by the entrepreneur. This includes assumptions about their ideal customer, their value proposition, their revenue model and more. You may not be their right customer, but they need you to figure that out.

Startups need you, but you also need them. Through pilot projects, startups gain valuable insights into technical, process, and quality requirements and the workings of an actual organization, which helps them become savvier and more adept at business development. But the organization can also gain much from the experience by identifying important trends, tapping into new technologies and identifying potentially future organizational talent.

Gaining insights. Done correctly, a pilot project can help you gain valuable insights into your industry and give you market intelligence that you don’t currently have. Hopefully the startup is doing a significant amount of market research and see you and your competitors as fruitful opportunities. Might you gain a competitive advantage by deploying an upstart solution? A pilot project can help you determine that.

Access to the startup world. It’s increasingly important for established organizations to get and stay connected to startup ecosystems. Pilot projects become a great way to do that. Ask the entrepreneur to provide you a perspective on this, what meet-ups you should attend and what other resources are available to larger organizations to help you tap into some great minds in the ecosystem.

Startups and established organizations can create symbiotic relationships with mutually beneficial outcomes. Working together to achieve common goals and moving beyond the traditional vendor/customer relationship is critical to finding mutual success.