Startup Friday: Partnership Tips, Tricks and Lessons Learned

Every month, ABN AMRO’s Innovation Centre hosts Startup Friday, an hourly event for startups and corporates to “get inspired for the weekend”. The Friday before last’s (May 22nd) theme was Corporate Launchpads, with its focus being financial startup-corporate collaborations.

Neelie Kroes, special envoy of StartupDelta, the organization responsible for developing The Netherlands’ startup ecosystem, kicked off the event. “[Collaboration] between corporates and startup is a win-win situation”, she declared. Kroes further expanded on her argument, asserting that corporates should “embrace startups to stay ahead of the game” as well as offer themselves as launching customers to aid in startups’ growth. This statement was later endorsed by Dave van der Pol from startup workspace, The Startup Orgy: “The corporate’s network can help a startup to launch.” Kroes, the oft-called ‘startup ambassador’, ended her energetic speech with a call to action to the audience: “Joining and sharing gives a better result than keeping it to yourself.”

Quby founder Joris Jonker, who collaborated with Dutch energy company Eneco to develop a smart thermostat, provided a startup perspective. He explained that from his experience, best results for both sides come from a mutual understanding: “Corporates and startups must have equal mentality and ambition, so put your best people on it.”

Rob Dielemans from GoDataDriven, who previously collaborate with ING, went a step further and provided a whole list of tips for corporates who want to work with startups. The points that lingered include: 1) “Make simple contracts, 2) Pay on time, 3) Have support from the board to continue the project, and 4) Accept failing experiments, because valuable lessons are learned from that.”

Our friend and former colleague, Don Ginsel, currently of Holland Fintech, closed the night, noting that startups and corporates working together have a mutual benefit for the whole economy: “Cooperation between corporates and startups can accelerate innovation.”

The event succeeded in vocalizing the best practices and lessons learned from two groups whose working relationships yielded benefits despite encountering difficulties throughout the development of their partnership. Hearing the firsthand points of view from both sides imbued the event with a dimension similar events sometimes lack. In terms of acting on best practices, the speakers’ collective wisdom for both parties in considering this direction could be summed up as such: corporates should work to integrate a startup within their current processes while startups should acknowledge that open innovation isn’t yet common practice for bigger companies.