Corporate-Startup-Collaboration: "When worlds collide"

06/06/2017  |  Business Hacks, Corporate Innovation, Digital Transformation

More and more companies are partnering with startups when dealing with the subjects of digitalization and open innovation. But what would a successful collaboration between established companies and “young guns” really look like? How can they work together to conquer new markets, drive innovation and then effectively integrate it back into the company? And last but not least: How can startups then profit from such an alliance? CODE_n takes a look behind the curtain and has spoken with various players – stay tuned for some feedback from a large corporation, a startup as well as a program that brings both of them together. As an additional highlight, we will also be following up on this exciting topic with a thematically-related event on June 22nd in CODE_n SPACES: Get excited about exclusive looks at a successful player in lessons learned, along with challenges and cultural differences of real corporate/startup collaborations!

Wonders occur when the corporate and startup worlds unite: Collaborations can be a powerful tool to develop innovation, conquer new markets and create win-win situations for both sides. Established companies profit here from fresh ideas, new technologies and external input, and they can also get inspiration regarding the opportunities of digitalization and receive a push in the direction of disruptive thinking and agile methods. Currently this topic has gone mainstream: According to a study by imaginatik and Masschallenge, 82% of large companies believe that interactions with startups are relevant for them. However, we are not just talking about market leaders here. SMEs are also becoming more and more interested in collaboration, hoping to get an initial spark for their innovation activities.

Worth taking a look: The “Big Player meets Startup” sprint chat during the new.New Festival 2016 provided a nice overview and worthwhile expert tips.


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On the other hand, startups also profit from alliances with a “big brother”: large companies and medium-sized enterprises can offer the young team what they’re often lacking: Access to a long-term, established sales network, a unique network and infrastructure as well as strong industry experience and financial resources. Want some tips for a collaboration with corporates? Then take a look at this CODE_n article and learn what you need to look out for as a startup!

Agile vs. bureaucratic: Some challenges can emerge

Despite all the advantages, there are also a few hurdles when it comes to a collaboration. According to a study by NESTA, the top 3 obstacles/barriers for startups when it comes to collaborations with corporates are speed (decision-making channels too slow), coordination (e.g. changing contact partners) and cultural differences. A recently published article from the Intrapreneurship Conference makes clear how both worlds perceive each other: Corporates see startups as innovative, agile, willing to take risks, passionate. On the other hand, these young players see the older players as slow, bureaucratic, large, but also successful (when it comes to clients and financial resources). The different approaches, framework conditions and – not to be underestimated – cultures can pose challenges for a collaboration.

To provide some examples, we have spoken to three players about their past experiences and received the following feedback.

The startup

“Collaborations with established companies naturally offer startups a good opportunity, under specific framework conditions, to speed up the development of their own business. With Blickshift, we also regularly attend events such as CODE_n or Startup Autobahn with the goal of making new and valuable contacts. Here we increasingly run into scouts from large companies who are on the lookout for collaboration opportunities with startups. We are currently in talks and are always open for a partnership on equal terms. Our tip: As a startup, you have to always be on the go, explore your options, get advice from experienced industry insiders and first understand the market, structures as well as functional chains before entering into a collaboration with a long-term commitment.” Dr. Michael Raschke, Founder and Managing Director of Blickshift GmbH

The established company

“The rapid implementation of innovations is becoming more and more significant in a fast-paced and ever changing world. In this regard, the resource-efficient exchange of know-how and the rapid exploitation of opportunities also plays a key role in a large company. Those who achieve fast and efficient results will be rewarded. It can be practically tested and identified early on whether or not the technology used will have a future in our corporation. And even when you know that the technology is not yet suitable enough at the end of the day, it was still a success for both the startup as well as the corporation. This is because this puts companies into contact with new technology and a new work culture, and the startups get that much closer to satisfactory product maturity and remain potential business partners.” Dr. Markus Beck, Research and Advanced Development, Daimler AG

The program that brings it all together

“ACTIVATR is a program that we use to bring startup founders together with established companies in order to found so-called corporate startups. Through this program, our partners such as Bosch, STIHL or fischer get access to talented founder personalities from the startup scene, and startup founders in turn get reliable access to strategic assets such as market access, know-how and technology. When this works for both sides, you get startups that have decisive competitive advantages while in the wake of the established companies compared to “normal” startups. This conscious mix of different experiences and points of view naturally brings with it enormous tension because you have a collision of worlds. However, the program thrives on this and success only comes when both sides bring desire and mutual understanding to the table. At the end of the day, it is not just the company’s innovation strategy that profits, but it is also an important foundation for the practical testing of new organization and management models.” Adrian Thoma, Initiator of the ACTIVATR program (infomation in German)

“Corporate-Startup-Collaboration | Fuckups, Lessons Learned and Cultural Differences” Event

At the CODE_n “Corporate-Startup-Collaboration | Fuckups, Lessons Learned and Cultural Differences” (DE) event, you will have the opportunity to take a closer look behind the curtain of real collaborations. Representatives of both worlds will be on hand to give you insight into their experiences and the challenges involved. At the Corporate Innovation Talks of EnBW AG and Daimler AGs, a panel discussion of experts will follow as a highlight of the evening with a Q&A session and an opportunity for relaxed networking.

Themed events at CODE_n: After “The Art of Guidance” there will follow an evening of “Corporate-Startup-Collaboration” in CODE_n SPACES



5:30 PM: Arrival with snacks and drinks
6:15 PM: Welcome address
6:20 PM: Corporate Innovation @EnBW AG Talk, together with Binando
6:30 PM: Corporate Innovation @Daimler AG Talk, together with physiosense
6:40 PM: Panel discussion – moderated by Oliver Böpple, Senior Innovation Manager, YOUSE GmbH

  • Nikolaos Baltsios, Co-Founder, Binando GmbH
  • Dr. Markus Beck, Research & Advanced Development – Team Leader Joining and Assembly Technology, Daimler AG
  • Alexander Buddrick, Product Manager, Brake Force One GmbH
  • Christine Wienhold, Innovationsmanagerin, EnBW AG
  • Björn Olaf Lang, Founder & Managing Director, physiosense GmbH

7:15 PM: Q&A session
7:30 PM: Networking, Beer’n Grill

When: Thursday, June 22, 2017, starting at 5:30 PM
Where: CODE_n SPACES, Schelmenwasenstr. 34, 70567 Stuttgart (U6 last stop, direction Fasanenhof/Schelmenwasen)

First come, first serve: Get your tickets now via XING. We look forward to an exciting evening with an interesting exchange with experts and guests!

Naturally, we will keep you up-to-date on topics such as corporate-startup-collaboration, corporate innovation, tech trends, current developments and best practices, etc. via this blog.