Skip to content

Winning Together: a guide to successful corporate-startup collaborations

This guide outlines the value that startups can bring to large firms, and helps corporate managers implement suitable startup programmes.

Key findings

Working with tech startups has become key to corporate innovation strategies.

Corporates from all sectors and sizes can significantly benefit from working with tech startups. Benefits include rejuvenating corporate culture, innovating big brands, solving business problems and expanding into future markets.

To identify suitable programmes to work with startups, corporates should follow these 3 steps: clarify your objectives, consider the programme options and connect potential resources.

Successful startup programmes combine a range of smart features, including effective internal management, new incentive structures inside the corporate to engage senior management and employees and simplified processes to make collaborations easier for startups.

Innovation is changing - big corporates are waking up to the fact that startups, especially digital and tech businesses, are disrupting whole industries from the bottom up.

Forward-looking corporates see startups not as a threat, but as potential partners to create more value for their company, consumers and sectors. One of the best ways to harness these benefits is setting up structured startup programmes.

This guide is for corporate executives and managers:

  • To help them understand what value working with startups can bring to their organisation.
  • To provide them with a three–step approach and framework to evaluate and select suitable programmes to engage with startups.
  • To empower those who want to champion startup engagement inside their company with case studies and stories that clearly illustrate the transformative benefits of collaborations.

This report was supported by Founders Intelligence and the Startup Europe Partnership, an initiative funded by the European Commission. ‘Winning Together’ is the first of a series of reports aiming at both investigating the different forms of support corporates can provide to help web startups scale and at producing best practices that can encourage more and stronger corporate-startup relationships in the future.

Policy recommendations

Policymakers should support organisations and initiatives that create bridges between corporates and startups; this can be done through public–private partnerships or by supporting emerging third party initiatives. The Startup Europe Partnership is such an example.

Authors

Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Christopher Haley

Head of New Technology & Startup Research

Chris leads Nesta's research interests into how startups and new technologies can drive economic growth, and what this means for businesses, intermediaries and for the government.

View profile
Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Head of Programmes – Nesta Italia

Over the last year, Simona was working on a new exciting project that led to the foundation of Nesta Italia.

View profile
Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Director, Development & European Digital Policy

Valerie and her team focus on helping policy makers, corporates, entrepreneurs and society make the most of the digital transformation.

View profile