We are living in a time of rapid change, coined by a constant stream of new digital solutions and disruptive innovations. In this ever-forward moving environment, staying at the forefront of technology and ahead of the market is more challenging than ever. New technologies arise, customer demands change and old markets collapse at a speed we have never experienced before. One only has to look at the world’s 10 biggest companies by market valuation: half of them did not exist 25 years ago and seven of them are tech companies.

For companies, whether startups or corporates, this fast-moving and -evolving environment makes it almost impossible to deal with all the arising challenges on their own. Partnerships and collaborations are an effective way of joining forces to stay ahead of the pack. Done right, a collaboration can be a win-win solution leading to valuable advantages for both sides. Even though corporates and start-ups sometimes appear to be operating in different worlds, it is their differences that offer the biggest potential for working together.

Why should a corporate work with a startup?

A corporate is usually a risk-averse institution, interested in maintaining the status quo or slightly changing and tweaking things to stay ahead. By working with a smaller and more agile startup, a corporate can gain knowledge and test new technologies which leads to unique market insights. Different mindsets and work cultures challenge established structures and enable corporates to think differently. Think about it as a rejuvenation process of a corporate’s culture and system. It is never a bad idea to question existing structures from time to time to refocus on what is really important.

What becomes clear is this: when we foster bilateral learning between a start-up and a corporate, the latter is able to increase the speed of bringing products to market, accelerate the renewal process from within and reduce the risk of getting left behind by the latest technological shifts.

And what is in for the startup?

Working with an established company gives credibility to a startup’s product and brand, which is still in the ramp-up phase. Collaborating with a top-of-mind brand creates a sense of trust from customers and can be leveraged as a reference for future collaborations. A corporate’s prominence and its access to a broad audience, established markets and paying customers increases a startup’s market reach. A start-up gets to learn what it means to work at a bigger scale and gains insights on how a corporate works.

Bringing the two worlds together

Our Startup Bootcamp wants to bring the two not so disparate worlds together. In collaboration with our operating partners Impact Hub and Venture Kick, we want to create synergies between corporates and start-ups. Over the course of half a day, we match top Swiss and International Scale-ups with our corporate network in the fields of Fintech, Cybersecurity, Digital Health, Smart Cities, Enterprise Tech, EdTech and many more.

Pitches give insights on problems both sides are trying to solve and during one-on-one sessions, they can evaluate a potential match for a collaboration. At the end of the day, each side decides if they want to continue or not. Go or no go, a decision is made quickly as maybes can be detrimental for fast-moving startups and waste time for both sides. If there is a match, then the parties decide how to proceed: there are various ways of working together, but some factors should be kept in mind.

What’s most important is to make the collaboration a win-win situation on a level playing field. It is always best to focus on real use cases and actual customer problems rather than trendy buzzwords. Lastly, remember this: to stay ahead of the market, the ability to work together needs to be faster than the pace of change, otherwise you will never beat the market.



Author Matthias Zwingli, digitalswitzerland

Matthias Zwingli is in charge of the Startup Enablement pillar at digitalswitzerland. He works as an ecosystem enabler and connects startups, corporates, hubs and investors. As an innovation and entrepreneurship enthusiast, he loves to work in a fast paced environment and question the status quo.

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