We talk with a lot of interesting people every day (definitely one of the best perks of the job!). We learn every day from these smart people and their experiences and thought why not share all that with you. Cue our new monthly webinar series.
The first six episodes focus on collaboration and specifically piloting. In each episode we have two guests from startups and one from banks, insurance companies or other corporations, who talk about the different parts of the collaboration journey from the first contact to life after the pilot.
While we are waiting for the next episode (live on the 5th of September), I thought I would gather together some of the learnings from the series. I have to emphasize the word ’some’ as it is impossible to fit everything into one post, and I highly recommend checking out the series here for all of the learnings.
Think long-term, aim for a win-win
Pilots are never the end goal. They are just a tool to see if you should do something bigger together. In other words to test whatever you are unsure about: if there is traction for the startup’s solution if the technology works if the startup team and the big organization can work together, or whatever it is that you need to know in advance before going for the real thing.
Of course, you might not know where exactly is the most value in collaborating, and pilots can help there too. But you should always have some kind of an idea about how the long-term should look like. Sure, it might change on the way there as you discover things and get to know each other better, but the mindset should be long-term, not just doing a pilot and then maybe doing something together later.
That is because after the pilot ends, it is too late to start discussing how to extend it. Ideally, you should be already talking with the relevant parties during the pilot and have a roadmap for what happens after (hopefully successful) pilot.
And remember: long-term success requires that both get something from it. Always aim for win-win.
If I had to choose a word that was most often used by the speakers, regardless if they were from a startup or corporation, it would be tangible.
While both parties should think about what exactly do they want to get from the collaboration, that is especially true for the corporation. They should think about what do they want to get out of the collaboration now, but most importantly: in the long term. Without this, it is hard to figure out what you should test with the pilot. And impossible to make it tangible and measurable in the way that actually gives you useful data, not just any data.
When you have tangible goals and metrics based on those, the pilot gives you good tools to figure out how and if you should continue working together in a bigger scale – and the confidence and trust needed to go there.
Think big. Build small.
You should think about the great big things you can achieve together from the beginning, but pilots you should keep small and simple.
There seems to be a tendency to want to do everything, to add this and that and also that to the pilot. But your life is going to be easier if you first make things simple. Focus on what do you really want to get from the pilot. That is usually something that tells you whether you want to continue working together and in which way; the key things, or even one key thing.
Growing later is usually the best and easiest way.
Have a clear system for collaboration, and have it early enough
What is 6 months to a corporation? Not much. To a startup? It can be the difference between life and death. Corporations shouldn’t waste time and get stuck on legal, technical or other such details. Instead, they should build the needed structures ahead of time and create a fast lane for collaborating with startups. That was the advice coming especially from the corporations’ side. Speed is a virtue when working with startups.
Openness. Honesty. Dialogue
This one is especially for the corporations: be honest. Don’t say ”there is this challenge” if you don’t want that challenge to be solved. If you mean no, say no. You are doing the startups a favor. A ’no’ early is much better than a ’yes’ too late. And not just that: be as honest as possible, about your expectations, your own capabilities, and limitations, about the possibilities and the constraints.
The good part about being open and having a proper dialogue is not just that you will find the limitations, what you can’t do, but you can also find new opportunities. It might be that the value you think the collaboration brings is good, but there might be even bigger opportunities elsewhere, in another area of the organization or the business. Startup collaboration is also discovery. And when you are having honest dialogue both parties can learn from each other.
By now, we have had five episodes and that is why I also decided to choose five learnings for this post. For the rest, check out the series here. There were a loooooot of important learnings I couldn’t fit to this post. And there is still also one more episode of this series left with three new guests I am personally super excited about!