Each of these firms has, in our view, gone the extra mile to establish mutually-beneficial partnerships with startups - whether through generous procurement terms, partnerships, accelerators, direct investment, mentoring, intrapreneurship schemes, competitions or other dedicated internal programmes.
7. Telecom Italia
20. SAP SE
As we have outlined in our reports, Winning Together & Scaling Together, successful corporate-startup collaboration is not easy. It requires commitment, leadership, experimentation and risk-taking. Collaborative working is itself a skill.
Nor are all corporates equal. Some firms engage for relatively superficial reasons, including the desire to be associated with cool startups. A few ‘string along’ startups with the unrealistic hope of a deal, sometimes causing significant harm. Most have honest intentions, but no clear strategy nor mechanism for engagement.
However, each of the firms on this list has, in our view, demonstrated its commitment to working with startups in a way which respects them as genuine partners and tries to overcome the cultural, structural and procedural obstacles that commonly obstruct partnerships.
As we announced back in March, the first stage was an open call for nominations. After this, nominated companies were invited to submit additional evidence, such as details of procurement terms, supplier registration processes, payment times, the presence of dedicated contact points, specialist partnership programmes and numbers of deals. This evidence was then scored and ranked by an expert jury, including several prominent entrepreneurs, angels and VCs.
There are perhaps a few surprises on the list, both in terms of absence and inclusion.
The absence of a few expected names may be for multiple reasons: some are well-known for working with startups in one regard but, in the jury’s view, could do more to improve other aspects of their relationship with startups and SMEs; others failed to provide sufficient evidence to convince the jury.
The presence of some less obvious names, from a range of sectors, is a good sign: it illustrates that corporate-startup collaboration is about more than acquisitive tech companies.
Of course, corporates are not the only winners here: hundreds of startups have benefited from close collaborations with these corporates. They now have the prospect of going from startup to scale-up: the real litmus test of entrepreneurial success.
The ranking and corporate profiles are available at Startups.co.uk. Tweet your favourite and follow the hashtag #corporatestars!