Illustration mind the gap_jumping jack

Mind the gap

Challenges in capturing value
from corporate-start-up collaborations

 

Part 1

Introduction

 

Part 2

Analysis

Key findings

Successful implementation of corporate-start-up collaborations can offer huge benefits to both parties involved. However, the pitfalls are many when two very different organisations work closely together.

Our research has revealed several gaps that corporates and start-ups must bridge to make future collaborations successful:

  1. Work out a better match between corporate and start-up objectives.
    Transparency and trust are vital components in achieving common objectives.

  2. Create sufficient structure and process for collaborations.
    Corporates and start-ups should have a defined collaboration process and develop common goals, milestones and key performance indicators.

  3. Increase the understanding of each party´s company culture.
    Embrace the differences in culture and focus on what they can learn from each other.
Promotion movie_Tobias S Andersson

See the live presentation of the report from DN Studio with guest experts from business, academia and the government. The video lasts for ca 30 minutes.

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Key findings icon

Part 1 Introduction

Open Innovation as a collaboration tool 

In a world characterised by highly specialised and dispersed knowledge, radical technology development and increasing business volatility, Open Innovation has emerged as a strategy for established firms and start-ups to strengthen their innovative capabilities for the purpose of developing or maintaining a much sought-after competitive advantage. As the name reveals, this strategy involves combining internal and external resources to drive innovation.

By adopting Open Innovation firms can:

  • decrease R&D costs and risks through shared development;
  • accelerate time-to-market by drawing on external and existing technology and expertise;
  • increase differentiation and new-to-market factors through higher degree of innovation.


Open Innovation manifests itself in many different forms, varying from in- and out-licensing of technology to the establishment of strategic alliances.

A growing trend within Open Innovation is the collaboration between corporates and start-ups. This trend builds on the promise of synergies that exist between corporates and start-ups. After all, start-ups buzz with entrepreneurial activity that corporates wish to draw upon, while at the same time corporates possess the resources and market outreach often necessary to succeed. Partnering up with start-ups can thus help corporates to accelerate their rate of innovation by accessing new technology, entrepreneurial talent and mindset, as well as specific solutions to refine and explore new products, services or business models.

 

Synergies are no guarantee for success

Even though these synergies exist, they do not guarantee success. Research from BCG on collaboration shows that the journey has several pitfalls and requires structure to be successful.

  • Corporates are in general optimised to repeat a proven business model.
  • Start-ups are more growth-oriented, innovative and faster.


Differences in size, traditions, culture and mindset are factors that could pose challenges when these two parties collaborate.

We wanted to dig deeper to identify the potential gaps between corporates and start-ups. Over the last years, the Norwegian start-up scene has thrived and both public sector and private companies show increased interest in start-up conferences, one-off events, accelerators, projects and investments.

With the increased interest in collaboration, our hypothesis was that both start-ups and corporates enter collaboration with similar objectives. However, our research shows that this is not the case.

Collaboration partners need to bridge multiple gaps to succeed.

The purpose of our study

The purpose of our study has been to identify the objectives and expectations that corporates and
start-ups have when they want to collaborate and identify potential gaps.

In our study, we want to shed light on the following:

  • What are the most efficient engagement modes for each party to achieve concrete collaboration outcomes?
  • How can we highlight the key factors for successful collaboration?


By understanding what is working and not from both sides, we can address those issues and make suggestions on how future collaborations can be more successful.

 

 

Part 1

Introduction

 

Part 2

Analysis

Analysis icon
Part 2 Analysis

Start-ups are increasingly important for corporates 

Over 85 percent of the corporates in our survey have collaborated with start-ups before, and most corporates started their engagement with start-ups about five years ago. Close to half of corporates in our selection also have experience working with both domestic and foreign start-ups.  

Most of the corporates have defined specific units in their organisation to be responsible for start-up engagements. In our study, 90 percent of the corporates express that start-up interaction is important. This indicates that even corporates that are not collaborating with start-ups today recognise the importance of doing so. 

While corporates believe that collaboration with start-ups is important, this importance is not always integrated in their strategy. In our study, 33 percent of corporates do not consider start-up collaborations as a vital part of their overall strategy. Furthermore, many corporates are still in the early stages of exploring start-ups as potential partners. 
Figur 1_Corporate importance of start-up interactions

 

Figure 1: Corporate importance of start-up interactions 

Start-ups exploit, while corporates explore through collaboration

Start-ups see engagement with corporates as vital for several reasons. A collaboration can:

  • provide validation for their business idea;
  • create legitimacy and credibility;
  • provide access to large customer bases and data to further develop the business;
  • contribute to improve the start-ups’ value proposition, open up for direct sale and increase revenue.


Through corporate collaborations, start-ups can gain access to the expertise and resources to scale and build robust organisations ready to enter new markets.


Findings from our survey demonstrate that the primary objective for corporates to collaborate with start-ups is different. Corporates see this engagement as a way of:

  • exploring new technology and business models;
  • gaining access to entrepreneurial talent and energy;
  • accessing unique products and services.


Through start-up collaborations, corporates aim for higher levels of customer value. In addition, they believe that interacting with start-ups allows them to move faster, experiment with niche solutions and challenge their own organisations.


Finally, some corporates express more philanthropic reasons for collaboration and emphasise the importance of guiding and helping start-ups, as well as promoting Norwegian business and building competitive power against other countries. 

Clear objectives for collaboration are no guarantee of achieving them 

While corporates and start-ups have clear objectives for why they engage in collaboration, this is not a guarantee that they will achieve these objectives. When we ask the parties, we see that in many instances the objectives are only partly achieved. For some of the start-ups, the objectives are not achieved at all.  

Figur_2_How often do the parties achieve their objectives
Figure 2: How often do the parties achieve their objectives in corporate-start-up collaborations? 

Why do corporates and start-ups struggle to achieve their objectives? 

The reason why they may struggle could be the type of objectives they pursue. It is naturally more difficult to obtain resources for start-ups than it is for corporates to explore new technologies and business models. It may also be that in Norway, start-ups and corporates experience bottlenecks in their collaboration that prevent them from achieving their objectives. To understand why, let us take a closer look at the engagement between corporates and start-ups: 

  • What modes of engagement do they use? 
  • How do they collaborate in the different engagement modes?
  • What are their expectations of the different modes?
  • How can their engagement shed light on the possible bottlenecks and gaps?  

Corporates and start-ups engage in different ways 

In our survey, 77 percent of the corporates have been collaborating with start-ups since the start of 2019, while 75 percent of start-ups have collaborated with corporates.  

Corporates traditionally used to engage with start-ups through corporate venturing, but, over the last decades, both the type and number of engagement modes have grown. We have identified six main types of engagement modes:   

  • one-off events
  • business/start-up support programmes
  • projects (proof of concepts and minimum viable products) 
  • sales agreements
  • joint development agreements
  • ownership agreements 



Table 1 gives a more detailed description of the various engagement modes. 

 

Mode 

Description 

One-off events 

These are events that allow corporates and start-ups to meet, get to know each other and explore the possibility for collaboration. These events are usually non-committal in the beginning, but can lead to something more concrete if it is a good match. Examples of such events are: 
 

  • pitching competitions 

  • hackathons 

  • conferences 

  • speed-dates with corporates 

 

One-off events can be organised by incubators in a neutral venue, with corporates as the sponsors, or corporates can organise them themselves. 

Business/start-up support programmes 

Support programmes require more commitment and resources from both parties. Examples of such programmes are: 

 

  • corporate incubators 

  • accelerators 

  • corporate partnership programmes 

 

These types of programmes usually run for three to four months and end with a demo day to show the product/service developed. They require a higher level of commitment and most corporates have a dedicated division or department for managing them. 

Projects (PoC & MVP) 

Start-ups often enter projects with corporates by developing either a proof of concept (PoC) or a minimum viable product (MVP).   

 

A PoC is used when start-ups have a ready product/service. It is tested by the corporate to prove that the product/service works as advertised and can solve the identified problem. The length of a PoC can be three to six months. It is common for corporates to cover the expenses for the PoC.  

 

An MVP is an early version of a product/service. It has just enough features, so that the corporate can provide feedback in iterations to improve the product/service. The iterations are also used to test and validate the product/service. 

Sales agreements 

Corporates enter into sales agreements with start-ups when they procure or buy products/services from start-ups. This mode can be a simple sales transaction or a licensing agreement.  

Joint development agreement 

A joint development agreement (such as joint product development or joint ventures) differs from an MVP. A joint development agreement usually requires more resources from both parties to develop a new product/service.  

 

To engage in joint development, it is common that both start-ups and corporates commit expertise and financial resources to develop a new product or service. 

Ownership agreement 

An ownership agreement allows corporates to own equity in start-ups, as either corporate venture capital (CVC), direct equity investment or by acquisition. Some corporates have CVC divisions that are able to take equity stakes in start-ups, and sometimes they may provide management and marketing expertise.  

 

Corporates may also invest in start-ups with direct equity investment.  

 

Acquisitions take place when corporates buy or acquire start-ups. Depending on the agreement, some start-ups can operate independently after acquisition or be entirely absorbed into the corporates.  

 

Table 1: Description of various engagement modes 

Corporates prefer low-risk engagement  

The different engagement modes vary substantially in: 

  • the amount of commitment expected; 
  • the resources required to engage with start-ups; and
  • the overall risk and uncertainty involved.  

Corporates most often choose one-off events to engage with start-ups, since it requires the least commitment, resources and risk.  

Project (MVP/PoC) collaboration is a strong second. Even though it requires greater commitment and resources, it is an activity that reduces uncertainty for corporates.  

Joint development arrangements, support programmes and sales agreements all involve more extensive forms of commitment.  

Ownership agreements often require the most commitment and resources. It is also an intense form of engagement between the corporate and start-up. This is therefore the rarest form of engagement mode that we have observed.  

Figur 3_Corporate engagement modes
Figure 3: Intervals of different engagement modes for corporates 

Start-ups engage with corporates in several ways 

Tech conference is the clear favourite mode for start-ups to engage with corporates, followed by proof of concepts (PoC) and sales agreements.  

Tech conference is also the preferred engagement mode for start-ups that are in seed and early stages, followed by MVP and PoC for start-ups in both of these stages.  

It is easy to understand why they prefer tech-conferences; it is easier and requires minimal commitment from both parties.  

The least preferred modes of engagement for start-ups are: 

  • corporate partnership programmes; 
  • hackathons; and
  • corporate sponsored incubators.  

The reasons may be that the selection criteria prevent start-ups from enrolling in these engagement modes. Also, not so many programmes of these types are available. 

Figur 4_Startup engagement modes
Figure 4: Intervals of different engagement modes for start-ups 

Differences in objectives are more apparent when the commitment is lower

Let us take a look at each party's objectives when they engage in the different modes.

Figure 5 shows that for one-off events, there is an apparent difference between corporates and start-ups. We clearly see that corporates engage in this mode with an intent to explore, while start-ups want to exploit. This can reduce the overall efficiency and experience of such events, as the two parties come with different expectations and objectives. 


Figur 5 Objectives for corporates and start-ups in One-off events

Figure 5: Objectives for corporates (purple) & start-ups (green) in One-off events

 

The objectives for corporates and start-ups also vary when they engage in business support programmes:

  • Corporates engage in one-off events and business support programmes to learn and get inspiration from start-ups.
  • Start-ups participate in these engagement modes to meet potential clients and mobilise relevant resources.
  • When start-ups participate in such activities, they see it as critical business activities and expect follow-up meetings.
  • For corporates, follow-up is only of secondary importance. If an interesting start-up surfaces, they will react, but they may just as easily walk out of these activities without following up.

We have not included discussions on projects (proof of concepts and minimum viable products), sales and licensing agreements, and joint product development and joint ventures, because they are more self-explanatory. For example, the objective of a PoC and MVP is to test the new products/service.

 

Picking the right engagement mode matters

One-off events and support programmes are often regarded as arenas that form the early stages of a more extensive future collaboration between corporates and start-ups. But how efficient are these two engagement modes, and do they yield continuous interaction?

As Figure 6 illustrates, nearly 50 percent of one-off events organised by corporates lead to a follow-up with a start-up.

However, the impact of such events varies greatly:

  • Tech conferences and speed dates are more likely to lead to follow-up, compared to hackathons and pitching competitions. These events stand out because they include interaction.
  • Pitching and hackathons have more one-way interaction that focuses on the start-up.
  • Speed dates involve more dialogue and are also events with a higher level of commitment compared to pitching events. This may increase the likelihood of a follow-up.

If we look at tech conferences specifically, there is more room for dialogue between the different parties. They can also involve a more curated set of companies that may be operating within a specific technological domain. This means that all parties are more aware of the expertise of each party. 

Figur_6_How often do one-off events lead to follow-up for start

 

Figure 6: How often do one-off events lead to follow-up for start-ups?

 

Figur_7_How often do business support programmes lead to follow-up for start-ups

Figure 7: How often do business support programmes lead to follow-up for start-ups?

What about support programmes?

This commitment is also clear for support programmes, as they are much more likely to lead to follow-ups. However, selection mechanisms are at play here. Whether it is for incubators, accelerators or partnership programmes, start-ups are selected for such programmes.

This means that corporates already have an interest in the concepts that these start-ups are developing. Also, incubators, accelerators and partnership programmes represent slightly different stages in the organisational lifecycle:

The further along in its lifecycle a start-up is, the more likely it is that the corporate will follow up. 

What are the findings for projects?

We asked start-ups how many of the different type of projects they were engaged in, and also to what extent these projects led to at least one customer. 

As the figure shows, more than half of the start-ups were engaged in some sort of project from January 2019. Most of them engaged in only one type of project, and not all of project initiatives led to a customer.

Start-ups that engaged in multiple projects, however, increased their chances of landing at least one customer substantially. 

 

Figur 8_How often a start-up landed at least one customer through projects
Figure 8: How often a start-up landed at least one customer through projects

Greater commitment from corporates requires greater patience from start-ups

Our next figure shows how many months it takes from a start-up´s initial contact with a corporate, to a signed agreement. Most agreements are signed within six months, unless we are talking about acquisitions, which in 40 percent of cases take more than ten months.

We observe that the engagement modes that require a greater commitment takes longer time to materialise, for example acquisitions, joint ventures, and projects. 

Figur 9_Time from initial contact to agreement

Figure 9: Time span from initial contact to agreement 

Vastly different experiences from the same engagement modes

We find that corporates and start-ups have different experiences with the various engagement modes:

  • One-off events: About 70 percent of corporates say they are satisfied, while approximately 40 percent of start-ups say the same.
  • Pitching events: 25 percent of start-ups indicate that they are dissatisfied with corporate-sponsored pitching events. An explanation may be that corporates and start-ups have different objectives when they take part in in these events.
  • Business support programmes: Corporates are more satisfied with this type of interaction. Only a few corporates indicate that they were very dissatisfied.
  • Project engagements: Start-ups are generally very satisfied and greatly value the possibility to test and develop their solution together with corporates. Still, some start-ups are disappointed. In addition, more than 80 percent of corporates are satisfied with projects, but the level of “very satisfied” is lower. Overall, this engagement mode is the most successful for both parties involved. 
  • Sales and licensing agreements: Again, corporates are the most satisfied of the two parties, although this is the engagement type with the greatest dissatisfaction from the corporate’s side. Joint development agreements show a similar pattern.
  • Ownership agreements: Corporates seem to be very satisfied with ownership agreements, while start-ups overall are neither dissatisfied nor satisfied. This is the engagement form where start-ups give their most ambiguous answers.

 

Figure 10_Engagement modes experience

 

Figure 10: How start-ups and corporates experience the different engagement modes

What affects the collaboration experience negatively?

In this section of the report, we look at how corporates and start-ups experience the other party when it comes to:

  • the strategic focus while in the engagement;
  • the perception of management and culture; and
  • the process and structure itself.


Different focus and priorities

First, let us look at how corporate and start-ups perceive the strategic focus of their counterpart.

Figure 11 indicates clear differences in how start-ups and corporates experience the strategic focus. The greatest difference in answers lies in the way they perceive how the other party prioritises collaboration activities.

  • Corporates say they agree with the statement “Start-ups prioritise the collaboration with corporates”.
  • Start-ups are more divided when they validate this statement. 45 percent agree, while 35 percent disagree. This is not surprising, since the collaboration may be more critical for the start-up´s ability to survive and grow.


Lack of a clear plan and good value propositions

Both start-ups and corporates disagree most with the statement that the other party has a clear plan for their interaction.

  • Just over 50 percent of corporates indicate that they experience that start-ups have a clear plan.
  • Only 25 percent of start-ups say the same for corporates.

A possible explanation may be in the overall objectives of the engagement, where corporates tend to explore, rather than exploit.

When it comes to the question about a clear value proposition for the collaboration, corporates are more positive towards start-ups than start-ups are towards corporates:

  • 63 percent of corporates believe start-ups have a clear value proposition; while only
  • 40 percent of start-ups believe that corporates have a clear value proposition

 

Title Figur 11_Strategy experiences for each party

 

Figure 11: Strategy experiences for each party

Collaborative mindsets, but a common lack of cultural understanding

In the statements about management and culture, the experiences appear to be more equal, but corporates tend to score lower in most parts than start-ups do, as shown in figure 12.

Given the fact that both parties actively engage and reach out to each other, there is clearly a collaborative mindset, but this mindset is stronger for start-ups than for corporates. This may be explained in issues like the extent to which there is a plan, and how they prioritise the collaboration.


Interesting differences: Do they have realistic expectations?

Start-ups believe that corporates have realistic expectations of the collaboration only to a limited extent, which includes:

  • a realistic expectation about themselves; and
  • realistic expectations towards the start-ups.

 Corporates on the other hand, believe that:

  • start-ups have more realistic expectations of themselves; and
  • not so realistic expectations of the corporates.


Do they understand each other’s company culture?

Start-ups disagree the most with the statement “Corporates understand the culture of the opposite party”, but both parties rate the opposite party low.

From this, we conclude that there is a gap in the cultural understanding, which can be destructive for a collaboration between start-ups and corporates.

 

 

Figur 12_Management and culture

Figure 12: How each party experience each other´s management and culture

Process and structure reveal large experience gaps

When it comes to the processes and structures involved in their collaboration, we observe from figure 13 that corporates record a more positive experience when they interact with start-ups, than
start-ups do with corporates.

  • Start-ups rate corporates low in all process and structure parameters. The most prominent being how fast they make decisions and how flexible these decisions are.
  • Both parties rate their counterpart below par when it comes to defining processes for collaboration. Most collaborations seem to lack a defined process, and neither party takes sufficient responsibility for defining it, or have the competence to do so.

Communication and transparency gaps

We also find gaps related to clear communication and transparency:

  • start-ups rate corporates low; while
  • corporates rate start-ups relatively high.

We can link this to previous findings, where start-ups rate corporates low on having a clear plan and value proposition for the collaboration.

This can also indicate that corporates are less likely to share information with start-ups, because there may be constraints for sharing in corporate governance and policies.

 

 

Figur 13_Process and structure

Figure 13: Experience of the process and structure dimensions of their counterpart

 

 

Part 1

Introduction

 

Part 2

Analysis

 

Part 3

Future expectations

Future expectation icon

Part 3 Future expectations

The future of corporate start-up collaborations 

When we asked corporates if they expected a change in future start-up collaborations, 55 percent said they expected collaboration to increase. Corporates affirm that they want:

  • better structures and increased professionalism in collaborations; and
  • increased opportunities to measure the outcomes.

Corporates also put some pressure on themselves. They want to take the lead in:

  • implementing a clearer strategy for Open Innovation; and
  • improving the processes concerning start-up collaborations.

Their objectives for future collaboration are largely the same as today:

  • access to entrepreneurial talent and energy;
  • access to unique products and services; and
  • the possibility to explore new technology and business models.


The future of collaboration - what do start-ups think?

Start-ups look for increased transparency and openness to build more trust. To obtain better collaboration, they pinpoint that corporates should:

  • be more willing to take risks;
  • collaborate with new partners/suppliers;
  • make quicker decisions; and
  • make sure they have better knowledge about the start-up’s motivation.

Corporates should share risk and revenue in win-win setups to enable a platform for mutual trust.

 



Better future collaboration requires homework for both parties

To spur further collaboration, both parties must overcome some obstacles. Start-ups express quite clearly that corporates must:

  • be willing to pay for PoCs and MVPs;
  • have an internal setup on how to collaborate and enable successful collaborations;
  • prioritise clear communication towards start-ups;
  • understand the cultural differences between start-ups and corporates.


Hierarchy and silos slow down the process

According to start-ups, hierarchy and silos in corporate enterprises slow down the processes.

There are also missing links, for example no internal ambassadors, between the innovation project and the rest of the organisation. These obstacles are apparent when you scale from a PoC or MVP to a sales/licence agreement. Finally, start-ups also experience that corporates are reluctant to fail when they experiment.


Corporates highlight budget constraints and lack of top management focus

30 percent of corporates mention budget constraints as an obstacle. This may explain the risk aversion and fear of failing that start-ups pinpointed.

Corporates also identify these hurdles:

  • an absence of strategic focus from top management on start-up collaboration;
  • the lack of a “growth mindset” internally;
  • cumbersome public procurement processes;
  • scarce resources in the form of time and capacity; and
  • the existing organisation culture.

Corporates also say that they sometimes lack the competence to run start-up collaborations and generally have a low appetite to take risk, because corporate culture does not always tolerate failure.

 

Also mentioned is the fact that some start-ups have unrealistic expectations and lack trust in corporates, and that corporates find it hard to gain access and choose the right start-ups to collaborate with.


Corporates feel unprepared when they first try to collaborate with start-ups

Corporates that have no start-up collaboration experience consider themselves to be slow, large and old-fashioned, focusing too much on existing business.

They express that they are:

  • not ready or mature enough to enter a start-up collaboration;
  • do not know how start-ups can help them;
  • do not have any tradition of Open Innovation.


Some say that until now they have focused on using internal resources for innovation.


What do corporates hope to achieve?

Corporates hope to achieve the following from collaborating with start-ups:

  • be able to quickly adapt to changing needs and improve their own services through access to new technology;
  • get inspiration from agile start-ups to help modernise and digitise their own company;
  • achieve external influence that can drive the innovation of new products, markets and business models; and
  • spur an innovative mindset in their own employees.  

 

 

Visualisering av fremgang - Del 4 av 4

 

Part 1

Introduction

 

Part 2

Analysis

 

Part 4

Bridging the gap

Bridging the gap icon

Part 4 Bridging the gap

Our research has revealed several gaps that corporates and start-ups must bridge to make collaborations succeed. 

Focus and discussions for corporates

Start-ups have lower trust in corporates than the other way around

Like any potential resource provider, corporates base their decision on the information they obtain from their counterpart. We find that the lower trust issue is embedded in the information asymmetries that become apparent in these collaborations. Since start-ups are on the receiving end, they must share more, and probably more sensitive, information on their business, if they want to convince a corporate to pursue collaboration.

Corporates are in a position where they can obtain relevant information and possibly improve their competitive position, without necessarily having to give anything back to start-ups. This is an important issue to be aware of for corporates.

 

To mitigate some of these problems, corporates can increase transparency and clarity in their communication and, early on, accentuate why and how they want to collaborate with start-ups. This will create more solid ground for collaboration and form the foundation for better trust.

 

Corporates must sharpen their strategic focus and take more risk

Corporates are balancing a tightrope between maintaining a strong position in their well-established markets and the desire to explore new areas of business.

  • To succeed, corporates must demonstrate strategic intent, that is, take deliberate action to align the various forms of collaboration more directly to their overall strategy.
  • Corporate top management must also commit to and allocate the resources to support this strategy.

Engaging with start-ups in innovation projects will always involve some uncertainty and requires a desire to take some risk.

There is no harm in treading cautiously when you engage in such projects, but you must also dare to take some risk or you may create bottlenecks for possible success. 

Tip: Corporates can develop risk management guidelines and protocols. For example, they could experiment with taking a portfolio approach to their corporate start-up collaborations, like venture capitalists do.   

Focus and discussions for start-ups

Start-ups need to have more realistic expectations of corporates

One relevant question a start-up may ask is: What can the corporate contribute? This is not necessarily the same as asking what resources the corporate has or how powerful it is. The contribution a corporate is willing to make depends on several factors:

  • it varies from stage to stage in the collaboration;
  • it depends on what the expected benefits are for the corporate; and
  • it relies on the corporate´s overall experience with start-ups and the ability to interact with them. 

Tip: Start-ups should thoroughly assess the collaboration they engage in and adjust their expectations according to what is possible to achieve, both in the short and in the long term.


Start-ups need to understand that corporates must balance multiple and conflicting interests

Such conflicts may be both internal and external for the corporate. A collaboration may create tension with other parts of the organisation, or during interaction with multiple partners.

A start-up may not be the only firm seeking to collaborate with a particular corporate. It is therefore important that start-ups understand that corporates have multiple stakeholders and major responsibilities to consider when evaluating the risks of entering into collaborations with external partners.

Final recommendations

1.

Build transparency and trust

A fundamental challenge for both start-ups and corporates is that they have different objectives. The question is: Are they aware of these differences? If not, they should make sure that they discuss and align their objectives and responsibilities before they start to collaborate.

 

2.

Create a well-structured process

Innovative and entrepreneurial processes are by nature experimental and explorative. That means there is even more reason to have clear structures and processes in place. 

Corporates and start-ups should work together to develop common goals, milestones and KPIs when they collaborate. We recommend focusing on tangible business outcomes and implementing regular decision points during the collaboration. This will make it easier to evaluate whether the collaboration is worthwhile.

 

3.

Try to understand the other party’s company culture

Collaboration between start-ups and corporates allows for large synergies, but we must recognise that the two types of organisations are fundamentally different. Embrace the differences in culture and focus on what you can learn from each other. Try to get a complete view of the other party´s culture, by sharing values and engaging in exchange programmes.

 

Authors

Tobias Studer Andersson

Tobias Studer Andersson

Head of Sopra Steria Scale up Scandinavia

tobias-studer.andersson@soprasteria.com

+47 41 37 32 14


Tormod Benonisen

Tormod Benonisen

Tidligere Sopra Steria Scale up
Medforfatter

 


Bram Timmermans

Bram Timmermans

Professor, Department of Strategy and Management, NHH-DIG

bram.timmermans@nhh.no

+47 55 95 95 34


 

 

 

Dennis Gan

Dennis Gan

Doctoral Research Fellow, Digitalization, UiO

dennis.gan@ifi.uio.no

+ 47 94 81 30 01


 

About our survey

We conducted a survey among Norwegian start-ups and Norwegian corporates which have actively engaged in one form of corporate-start-up collaboration since January 2019. 

The two surveys were conducted in September and October 2020. Start-ups were asked to fill out an online questionnaire, while corporates were contacted by phone. 

We invited selected corporates from Sopra Steria’s client list to participate. The participants are large public and private organisations, and include telecoms, energy companies, retail players, hospitals, banks, insurances companies, consulting companies, manufacturers, government agencies and municipalities. 31 out of 57 invitees agreed to participate. 

We selected start-ups from a sample of newly established businesses that received establishment support from Innovation Norway. These companies have all gone through a screening process that assessed their overall innovativeness. In addition, they had to identify with the statement: "A young independent company founded by one or more entrepreneurs to develop a unique product or service and bring it to market. In doing so the entrepreneur(s) behind the start-up seek, effectively develop and validate a scalable business model. A start-up is established with the intention to grow beyond the entrepreneur and entrepreneurial team."

122 out of 900 start-ups participated in our survey. The participating start-ups vary in maturity.

We believe that the start-ups in our study mirror the start-up scene in Norway well. A few Norwegian start-ups have international customers. The majority currently have only some or no paying customers, but have started to gain customer traction nationally.

 

Figur The stage and maturity of the start-ups

 

Figure 14: The stage and maturity of the start-ups in our survey 

Illustration mind the gap