The Innovation Commons’ first session hosted 23 participants from fintech, retail tech, corporate innovation, FMCG, cybersecurity and banking for honest discussion on the nature of corporate/startup partnerships.

The session kicked off with Ajay Arora, Strategic Tech Partnerships at Google, recounting a transformational partnership deal between Distill Ventures and Seedlip.

The group began by exploring the differences in approach from the buy side and the sell side when it comes to procuring innovation.

Corporates are motivated by referrals. They value trust in the broad network of innovation and are more likely to engage with a recommended entrepreneur.

Startups, on the whole, feel as though they are moving in the dark when it comes to the engagement process. They have little visibility of next steps, timelines and sponsors in the process. Onboarding processes can be fragmented and non-standard.

The innovation teams of big corporates often play the role of facilitator. Not necessarily dealmaker, but the team that will give an overview of how a corporate/startup relationship will play out. Innovation teams of corporates work better when the teams themselves have startup experience.

A new concept emerged from the first session – if a corporate could standardise three-quarters of its on boarding process – it would reduce the frustrating process of fragmented, confusing procurement. Who could deliver this standardisation in the industry?

The Commons broke into group working to identify biggest pain points in corporate/startup relationships and imagined a perfect first conversation. This perfect conversation included questions such as:

• Who might block this deal?
• What evidence do you require for product traction?
• Are there any timing conflicts on either side?
• What clarity do you need on our USP?
• What does success look like for us?
• Do you envision any RFP issues?
• Is there a budget to take this forward?
• Who has the ability to sign this off and pay me?
• Do you think we have a chance?

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