A sister event to Barcelona Mobile World Congress, 4YFN (Four Years From Now) recently brought together to the city for the fourth time the best start-ups and entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, incubators and big corporations from the digital and non-digital world. So we had again the opportunity to attend some of the many and interesting events on its three-day programme of conference sessions, workshops and interactive discussions.
It was not our first time there. As it happened last year, this international business and networking platform for the global tech start-up community represented a unique opportunity to glimpse which are the main business trends and topics regarding digital innovation, and perceive which are the more recent or near future focusses for analysts, entrepreneurships and corporations. Our conclusion: if one year ago we clearly felt collaboration and co-innovation was “on the air”, this year these were the main topics, especially regarding the relationship between start-ups and consolidated companies.
1000 big corporations craving for collaboration
This year nobody mentioned innovation in big corporations without talking about some sort of collaboration or co-innovation with startups. Some numbers were given on the introduction to the session titled “Dancing With Giants: How Corporations Can Collaborate With Startups”: about 1000 of those considered big global corporations have currently launched some sort of program or initiative to collaborate with startups. The idea that “innovation is happening beyond our walls”, once stated as a confession that few CEO of consolidated companies made openly, is now a main “leiv motiv” of explanations for funding and embracing accelerators and other collaboration programs.
Managers in charge of this kind of initiatives in companies as Orange, GSMA or Banco Sabadell formed the panel for this session in which also participated Philippe Thiltges, Managing Partner of WhatAVenture, one of the increasing number of companies and consultancies rapidly specializing in helping to accelerate business ideas combining corporate power with startup agility. Based in their experience, Philippe considered a key success factors for this kind of relationships the way those relations are structured and being able to detect and recognize in their early stages what does it work and what it doesn’t to rapidly implement changes or agree on expectations.
He also mentioned as one of the main barriers the amount of “red tape” in the form of complex contracts, extensive due diligences, etc. that conform part of the processes big corporations are used to but reduce the quality of the collaboration programs. It was also interesting to hear from him how things in this area are changing quickly: the increasing competition for innovation outside, the “fight” between corporations to collaborate and co-innovate with startups allow now entrepreneurs to be much pickier when is time to decide which big company to collaborate with and under which conditions.
More flexibility and less greed
For Paula Blazquez, Fintech Strategy Manager at Banco Sabadell, the key factor for this kind of relationships is to be as flexible as possible. This is the reason why Banco Sabadell collaboration program offers three different types of partnerships: commercial, product partnership and technology licensing. For his part, the Development Director of Orange Technocentre François Dufour, declared as two of the most common mistakes made working with startups “being greedy” and “planning too much upfront or not planning enough”.
In the workshop “Creating Value By Collaborating: How To Set-Up Impactful Startup-Corporate Business Relationships” Nicolai Schaettgen, Managing Partner of Match-Maker Ventures openly talked about living “The age of collaboration” and the strategic importance of collaboration in a new business paradigm in which “corporations and startups need each other”. Match-Maker Ventures, another of the aforementioned specialists in the relationship between corporations and startups, promises “accelerate innovation by fundamentally changing the way corporates and startups work together”. For Nicolai, if having to choose one key factor of success in this kind of relationships, this would be a deep understanding by both corporations and startups of each other point of view and fights.