Corporations work with startups now more than ever. Some of them do it for employee branding to attract more young talents, the other ones – for the board communication to show we are an innovative company that cooperates with startups.
There are still corporations that do it for the right reasons: to spur innovation culture within the company and to optimize the way they work.
This December, LIFT99, the leading startup space in Tallinn invited Chris Robbins, CEO of telecom company Tele2, and Mariana Hagstrom, Founder & CEO at legal tech startup Avokaado to discuss startup-corporate cooperation models, risks and the ways to manage them. The discussion on stage was led by Gustav Kotkas.
- People and values match
Corporations and startups have totally different ways of work, volumes of resources and understanding of success. While all of it can still be adjusted, what is hard to adjust are the core values.
These values in both corporations and startups should match from the beginning. For this issue, Chris brought up his methods of discovering the initial value match: everything starts with the initial meetup of the team and introduction. He appreciates when startups do not pitch him in the same way as they do for investors. Chris gave an example of how Avokaado approached to him: it was not a pitch, it was a clear offer with key facts on why and how Tele2 in-house team can benefit from document automation with references to working cooperations (building trust). Chris said it was “just enough to get interested” and see that the values did match.
Key take-way for a start-up: do your research to know the corporate managers and people you are going to work with: how long they have been in the position, what the corporate innovation strategy is and, if possible, what the attitude for working with startups is (references to the previous projects and support to the community). Finally, practise your introduction.
Key take-way for a corporation: see if the startup team understands your problems and matches your values, how well they are familiar with your company structure and specifics of the industry, and if they know what results they want to deliver.
2. Clear objectives
The objectives are equally important for corporations and startups: the former want to get the value fast, the latter want to deliver results fast. Chris noticed that usually startups talk and promise a lot but often do not follow it through.
That’s why he has set a very concrete timeline for startups in-house: after 3 months of pilot/POC the startup solution should have started bringing value or the deal is off. During the pilot, the company and Avokaado team set a clear goal: what are we going to test, what results do we want to achieve and who delivers what at which phases. Tele2’s main request was to see the internal benefit for legal operations efficiency, standardisation and scalability.
Key take-way for a start-up: design your pilot project and think through every step and key objectives – who does what and when. This helps to set the goal to the right directions and keep all parties involved at the same page (expectations management).
Key take-way for a corporation: make sure the problem you are going to solve happens on a daily basis and really takes your people down. Knowing your problem makes your goal clear. The first wins will bring a lot of satisfaction to those who’ll be testing the solution and keep people motivated to move towards the goals.
3. Internal champions.
Last, but not the least important, is the people within the corporation that will be working with a startup. These people should be enthusiasts and have an innovative mindset.
What Mariana usually tries to do is to find those internal champions who are ready to leave their comfort zone and open for experiments – new technology should not stress them out or make them stuck. This spirit will help both teams to stay motivated and move towards their goals. Chris also adds that once a startup establishes relations with those few champions, it is important to encourage them to push a tool internally to the other teams. In this case, whenever some people leave or new hires arrive, the tool is tested and used company-wide so that anyone can pick it up and keep using it.
Key take-way for a start-up: make sure that the corporation is truly interested in implementing a new solution and has the right people and processes in place. It is true motivation killer for startup team to discover on the go that nothing really happens and no value generated after all efforts.
Key take-way for a corporation: find the champions to work with and do not try to extend the project at once. If the results start showing, more people are willing to change their habits of working.
Tele2’ board management and legal team followed these steps to implement Avokaado tool and turn Tele2 contract work around in 6 months. Lawyers automated Tele2 contracts library by combining Avokaado templates and in-house templates standardisations and automation. Now legal team does not need to draft or review every single contract but only performs more complicated tasks.
Use case: Tele2 signs around 100 NDA-s yearly. Tele2 legal team was able to draft 2 NDA per hour maximum, so 100 NDA would have taken them around 50 hours. Since Avokaado has been adopted, business units are drafting and signing NDA’s themselves on the platform and it takes around 5 minutes for each. So 100 NDA-s are drafted within 50 minutes instead of 50 hours of lawyer’s time.
Tele2 and Avokaado are already setting up new goals and expanding the solution to the Tele2 offices in other countries. Both teams are still on the same page and with the same values in minds – flexible, agile and innovative.
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