I believe there are three phases of startup and corporation collaboration (all of which are needed by the way!):
One-night stands, dating, and finally marriage.
One night stands are the first contacts between startups and corporations. Mingling at startup events, arranging innovation competitions, hackathons and the like. These are needed for people to get first experiences with startups and learn how different, yet lovely they are.
Dating phase is an accelerator program. There corporations get to experience the startup way of doing things. Iterating fast, focusing on the user experience, and providing customer care that is beyond just words. They also get feel what it is to truly share information and work without silos – things that are essential for creating real innovations.
Research shows that such programs work when they are outsourced to a party that understands corporations, and even more importantly: follows “lean startup” or similar methods. Coaching in the program also has to be focused on designing the businesses so that it create value to customers, not pitching or scaling them too early (unfortunately that is what most, but not all, accelerators do). Dating may or may not include investments into startups, but at least it should include some kind of business deals with the most suitable ones.
To make all that happen, it is crucial to have commitment from the top management and resources allocated for collaboration. It is also important to be flexible to learn and adjust processes so that you can actually get the innovations from the startups.
Marriage means getting even more serious and committed to working with startups. In the startup world, marriage has to be polygamy as marriage with just one startup seldom works. There is a high risk of killing the customer orientation/speed of startups with corporate processes and rules. That is why you need to systematically work with enough startups to achieve the critical mass and also make sure the corporation learns to benefit from startups.
And that’s it, the lovely world of startups’ and corporations’ love life.