Startups and corporations : narrowing the gap

Posted on Posted in Gestion du changement, Innovation, Startup, transformation digitale
“Should I wear a tie ?”, asked John to himself, CEO of, at the time of meeting one of his key strategic client.

“I was sent a commercial proposal in a mind map format from a startup”, said Helen to one of her colleagues, in charge of strategic partnership at Corporation Ltd. “Do you think this is serious business ?”

Even if clichés, these 2 cases show that contact points between the corporate and startups worlds are constantly multiplying and will soon be amplified by the coming “digital transformation” tsunami. The 2 worlds attract each other like magnets, and there is definitely value in this collision. Get ready for impact !

The challenge is surely technical : integrating newly developed components into mainframe architecture, running applications on several devices, hosting big databases dedicated to predictive analysis … Hardware and software are coming from all parts to tackle new market shares and address new needs.
But not only…

We should as well leave the generation gap apart for a time, this topic can not be reduced to a “T-shirt – suit” debate, the main challenges are definitely elsewhere.

Return of experience (REX)
As far as I am concerned, they appear through situations, that I have experienced from both sides along my career and spot deep strategy differences, antagonist objectives sometimes.
  • It took more than a year for a corp to share its client file with a startup in the frame of a joint-venture. Lack of agility or good risk management?
  • It took weeks for a startup to be referenced by a corporate procurement process for a simple 10 000 dollars contract. What is at stake ? Time to market or compliance ?
  • Frictions on commitment appeared inside a shared team – 50% startup, 50% corp – after 6 months on a common project. Entrepreneurial spirit or career management focus?
The best of both worlds

On the other hand, there are plenty of success stories where one world has benefited from the other : a financially stable corporation backed up a startup that ran out of treasury, disruptive business models brought by startups have been implemented into companies business units, employees from large companies – a tremendous source of expertise and knowledge – were solicited to push ideas into projects then into startups.

Here are 2 tips to get prepared to a sustainable partnership
Both, start with an empathy map : understand differences and expectations – time scale, risk, profitability – and driven by a good change management, you could create the conditions to have everyone in motion.
But above all, test, test and test. HR, send your staff in events like workshops or hackathons, they are blooming these days. Bring your business cases, your needs, your data. Startups will be delighted to turn them into products and services. There is nothing else but real business playgrounds to test, validate a value proposal and learn from each other.
The best is yet to come