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Vihra Shopova
June 7, 2018

The Corporate-Startup Collaboration: How to Create a Successful Partnership

Successful collaboration between startups and corporates is not mission impossible. It can be extremely beneficial for both parties involved! Here's our guide to creating mutual understanding and forming a solid collaboration that benefits both parties.

Today, innovation is led by startups. The most forward-thinking corporates know that the best ideas don’t always come from within their own business, and have recognized the value in investing in and collaborating with startups. But because of early challenges, there is a common misconception that corporations and startups can’t form mutually beneficial relationships without one ultimately buying out the other. 

Over the years, we've seen both successful and disastrous collaborations – so much so that we started betahausX as a way to leverage our expertise in corporate innovation. We chatted with our team running these startup programs to get their lessons on how to prevent mistakes and get the best outcome for both parties. Here's what they had to say!

Startups are from Mars, Corporates are from Venus

It is within startups nature to be flexible, action-oriented, quick to change and to have high-risk tolerance. On the other hand, corporates have already established a brand and credibility, which they have to protect. They're generally slower in decision-making and have a strong sense of hierarchy. The challenge in collaboration between corporates and start-ups is finding shared mindsets on both sides. Following the aim to keep their identity and build their own reputation, startups are often unwilling to team up with larger, more established companies. They don't want to feel like they're “selling out’’. At the same time, corporate employees are trained to follow standardized processes and are often challenged by the creative and loose behavior of entrepreneurs. Besides, in many cases, corporates lack the know-how for how to work with startups.

Corporate Startup Collaboration Succsessful Partnership


In order to create a win-win situation for both sides, we should first discuss the possible benefits for both parties involved in the collaboration. It will only make sense for startups to jump in if they know they know for sure that after the collaboration they will bring revenue, notoriety, or greater independence. Another benefit for startups is that they gain access to greater market expertise and mentoring from experts in the field. Partnering with a larger firm can boost the startup's reputation and help them with future sales. They benefit from a greater possibility to expand and can go for a low-risk internationalization.

On the other hand, partnering with startups brings corporates external innovation, new ideas and helps them to ‘’think outside of the box’’ and stay on top of market developments. Corporate firms fall behind trends and innovations in their market. In the face of the startups, they get access to an innovative team that can inform them about new business models and emerging technologies faster. Another common benefit for corporates is that they get more customer focused which often has a positive outcome on their brand and revenue.

Corporate Startup Collaboration Succsessful Partnership


Certainly, there are also a lot of pitfalls both sides should be aware of when collaborating. One of the first things startups should have in mind is that working directly with a corporate closes a lot of doors for them in terms of further opportunities and often means doom if the partnership doesn’t work out. In order to avoid getting absorbed by one customer and feeling ''used' after the collaboration, startups have to clarify the budget and the success metrics from the start of the deal. Another common problem that might appear is losing the startup spirit or having delayed projects (mostly caused by the slow process of the corporates).

When collaborating with startups, larger companies are taking a huge risk and should be aware of the uncertain outcome of the project caused by a misunderstanding between both parties or different interests. Startups are inherently risky, so they should be aware that not all investments will yield return, and which can cause them damage to an otherwise reliable reputation.

Corporate Startup Collaboration Succsessful Partnership


For a healthy and successful relationship between startup and corporates, there are few questions that have to be addressed before shaking hands. 

Startups estimate their time precisely, so they should be aware of the exact duration of the sales cycle. Besides, key corporate departments may not want to work with start-ups and their unproven products if they cannot provide references from previous corporate clients. That's why startups should be informed from the start about the resources needed to handle the necessary processes.

Relevant questions for corporates are concerning the balance between investment and return. What are the benefits and long-term competitive advantage of this collaboration? Why is this different than what they could build initially? Or why is the startup interested in working with them in the first place? The sooner corporates answer these questions, the smoother the collaboration will work.

Corporate Startup Collaboration Succsessful Partnership Betapitch Inverstors Day betahaus
Investor's Day & 2017BETAPITCH

Thanks to betahausX for sharing their expertise on this topic! Not only do they run our signature events like Investors Day, BETAPITCH, and Hardware.co, but they also facilitate training workshops, startup immersions, and accelerator programs that support the collaboration between startup and corporates. 

Visit their website to learn more about their innovation programs, or read more on the betahaus Blog here.

"The Summer is the best time to host Backyard sessions and BBQ’s’’

In the summer, we launched a couple of new events in Neukölln like Freelancers, Unite!, The Backyard Sessions and My friend’s BBQ. 

Freelancers, Unite! developed as our productive coworking session with freelancers from in and outside the ‘haus. Once a month, we picked an important freelance topic (such as taxes, time-management, etc) and invited experts to give us insights on the topic. We saw so many new faces and had the chance to come back closer to where we started from - the freelance, grassroots culture. 

Freelancers, Unite! at betahaus | Neukölln

Another event, which started in July (and turned out to be our favourite events) were The Backyard Sessions. Organised by our queen of Neukölln - Robbin – the Backyard Sessions are our creative evenings with live music jams, movie screenings and cocktails. 

The Backyard Sessions at basement.berlin
Movie Screening at basement.berlin

This last event was hilarious because for quite some time, nobody knew exactly who organised it or invited them. The friend was throwing a BBQ for the community in the garden and this led to all our members joining and staying after for a beer or two with us.

‘’My favourite moment this year was the second friends bbq which was actually cancelled because of the rain forecast. But despite the bad weather, people show up and it turned into a super nice intimate evening with Elizaveta and Paul giving a garden concert.’’ - Robbin (Community Manager, betahaus)

''In July, it was great how the casual after-work BBQ turned into an impromptu acoustic blues jam session with Elizavetta Barsegova and Paul, who have the voice of an angel. Actually, all of the My Friend's BBQ's and Backyard Sessions were AWESOME.’’
- Paige (Head of Marketing, betahaus) 

The Garden at betahaus | Neukölln
My Friend's BBQ at betahaus | Neukölln

"As a coworking space, you have to give stage to important topics.’’

This year we released a new event format in Kreuzberg called ‘’The betaSalon’’. It's an open panel discussion which aims to give stage to important topics and give free speech on them. The fist one we did on the EU elections, last month we talked about changemakers, but our favourite one for this season stays ‘’Mother + Founder’’ where we partnered with FemGems podcast and recorded a live podcast episode for them having Madeleine Gummer von Mohl (betahaus co-founder), Kristine Zeller (co-creater of ooshi period underwear) and Luisa Hoffman on the stage.

betaSalon at betahaus | Kreuzberg

"We should fight for a more human-centered tech development’’

Every September, our co-founders take part in the Techfestival. in Copenhagen, spending a few days disconnecting from the daily life and focusing on creating a better, more human-centered tech future. This year the think tank which included our co-founders Madeleine and Max came up with the TechPledge. The Tech Pledge was made to emphasize the need for a new direction in tech. Similar to the Hippocratic oath for doctors, the Tech Pledge is a promise to make tech a force for good and ensure responsible and sustainable tech leadership. It’s a commitment to driving a new direction in technology.

Techfestival. 2019 in Copenhagen

"Startups are transforming European football as we know it.’’

One of the most exciting projects for betahausX this year (which is also continuing in 2020) is their new startup challenge called The Werder Lab - a global startup competition that aims to reimagine the way clubs like Werder work with athletes, fans and partners.

"You should leave time for the things you love most’’ 

This year couldn’t end without us having our favourite events - the end-of-the-year holiday party and the BETAPITCH Global Finals. On the 6th of December we saw the 9 finalists of the regional BETAPITCH competitions pitching in front of our jury. Congrats to Troy from Hamburg for winning the big prize.

We finished the year at our Holiday Party celebrating anything and everything at betahaus | Neukölln together with our members, friends of friends and our favourite artists from Passiflora LIVE, Tapete and Kotoe.

Love at The betahaus Holiday Party 2019

Thank you for being with us in 2019. It's been a crazy big year for us and it wouldn't been possible without your support, trust and the hard work of our amazing team. Have an amazing holiday time and we'll see you again in 2020.

With love,


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