Article
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05.12.2020

Partnership essentials: elements of a successful partnership between corporations and venture studios

Kostas Grigoriou

At High Alpha Innovation, we partner with visionary organizations to build startups together. Our partners often come to us after recognizing the need to engage in external startup creation in order to execute some of their innovation efforts. Why? Because there is no better way to do it than partnering with a proven startup builder. We are often asked "what would make a startup partnership successful?" Our experience suggests that there is a recipe.

Although specifics change and every partnership is different, at a fundamental level there are clear partnership essentials — elements that make startup co-creation work. Our partners bring a rationale for innovation through startup creation and a willingness to contribute their existing market expertise, network, and scale. We bring the venture ecosystem and the capabilities of business building. The winning recipe ensues.

A clear, strategic rationale for startup building

Successful partnerships start with an understanding from our corporate partners of why and how startup creation can help with some of their innovation objectives. Often, the underlying motivation is to help someone get points on the board.

We don’t need to see a detailed innovation strategy or a growth roadmap to work together and build great companies. However, we want to know that our partners have clear strategic objectives and an understanding of how launching startups can help them achieve those objectives. Ideally, that understanding comes with the recognition that our partners need help (they can't do it alone) and that they are willing to put their trust in the hands of expert startup builders.

Building a new company is hard. It gets exponentially harder when a new company has to jump through the traditional corporate stage-gates, as if it were simply a good idea and not an integral part of achieving the organization’s objectives.

Corporate superpowers: market expertise and access to scale

No one knows your market or your customers better than you do. Our corporate partners can clearly identify the seeds of good opportunities to create winning value propositions that we're able to leverage to design winning new businesses.

No one can fuel early momentum for that new business better than our corporate partners. Our partners are often the first customers or channels for the startups we build together. They activate their network and allow the startup access to what they do best: execute, mobilize, and scale.

To us, these are the corporate superpowers that can greatly benefit any new startup spun out of a co-creation effort. We ask our partners to be prepared to contribute those.

Venture studio business-building muscle

High Alpha has been building startups for five years and has a strong track record to show for it. We are getting better every day. Along our journey, we have found the secret sauce of business building that we contribute to our corporate partnerships.

We move fast. We test “deal killers” first. We run appropriate inexpensive tests. We only seek just enough confidence. We twist and turn to uncover business models that work. We fall in love with problems. We run Sprint Weeks. We design businesses before we launch them, but when we do launch them, we continue learning and designing before going all-in. We find and attract the right CEOs. We don’t tell partners what to do; we do it with them. We do things with the right people at the right time. We talk to customers. We loop in our ecosystem for external validation. We do it again and again until we get it right.

In short, we have identified how to systematically deploy and replicate the agile, creative, capital-efficient best practices of venture-backed SaaS startups. It is our business-building muscle. It's a muscle that large corporations generally don’t have. It is our contribution to our corporate partnerships, and when it's combined with a clear strategic rationale and the corporation’s superpowers, it results in startups that enter the market with a massive unfair advantage.

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