What has your experience taught you about startup-corporate collaboration?
Startup-corporate collaboration is very hard, especially for early-stage startups. That’s because corporates need a long time to make decisions and have a lot of internal processes they have to follow. Simple decisions can often take up to two or three months or even longer. If you are in an early stage, that’s a really long time. In the beginning, we focused on smaller companies, because for them it’s easier to convert. They don’t have so many processes and hierarchies, especially when it comes to payment. For corporates there’s a huge process involved for choosing a paid solution, but in small companies of five to ten people it’s very likely that everyone has the responsibility to make such a decision.
You described the challenges of working with corporations, but what benefits can startup-corporate collaboration bring?
One of the benefits is that corporates are quite loyal. So if they actually choose your solution, the decision sticks for a long time. Because it took a long time to make the decision and probably one product manager was responsible for selling your solution internally, it’s very likely that their decision will succeed.
We’ve found the same thing at Pioneers Discover. Do you have already some experience of working with big corporations? Or do you still focus mostly on small businesses?
Most of our customers are small businesses and medium-size businesses. But we also have a few larger partners, for example Danone from UK and Azerfon, the biggest telecom provider in Azerbaijan. And another of our major clients is Uber in the Latin America region.
What was the success factor for you when you worked with such corporations?
It depends. For example Uber was interesting, in the beginning just one small internal team joined our platform, and then we saw more teams joining. The teams were from different cities and different countries in Latin America. With Danone it was a lot of work upfront. They got to know our solution and the product manager we were talking to started to sell it internally. Then they had to do some modifications on their side to make our platform accessible for the user onboarding flow they had in mind, and this process took almost a year. It really depends on the company, the use case and how well your solution fits into their current processes.
What do you look for when you work with larger and smaller companies? What’s the main factor for you in deciding to work with them?
Right now it’s super helpful to work with medium-sized businesses because we can easily get involved and provide a lot of insight. For small businesses, the use cases vary. However, for bigger companies, they often already have clearly-defined use cases. We can learn a lot from them on how we can make our platform better, as well as how we can work better. In this sense, it’s better to work with larger companies because they have fixed processes, while small companies have many different use cases. I think it’s easier to make a decision based on one use case which will offer us a broad usage for the future.
Now looking at it from the other side, why do you think corporates should work with startups?
Since their processes are very complicated and really slow, it’s hard to get innovation to a big company. When you take a look at larger European companies, they have a big problem with innovation. That’s why some of them have innovation departments. But even then it’s hard to sell ideas internally, because as mentioned they have too many fixed processes.
How do you think we will communicate in 20 years?
I think we won’t be using smartphones anymore, because smartphones actually limit the functionality of our bodies a lot. We have two hands and 10 fingers, but we only use two fingers for the interaction with the smartphone. So it’s a pretty limited user interface and I think that user interfaces will adapt to the human, which means either natural language or even some kind of brain interface, something that will adapt better to our movement and bodies.
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