Taking startup collaboration to the next level!

A workshop by Match-Maker Ventures hosted by Arthur D. Little

On May 19th, 2016, Match-Maker Ventures (MMV) held a workshop focused on startup-corporate collaboration with over 35 corporate employees working in the fields of innovation, new business, strategy, partnering, and product management. This workshop was conducted in collaboration with Arthur D. Little (ADL), and enriched by successful entrepreneurs sharing their experiences.

Mae Hansen (Director of Startup Engagement MMV) started off by explaining the challenging life of a startup, followed by a panel led by Jörg Flöck (Managing Partner MMV), and finished off with an in-depth presentation from Dr. Nicolai Schättgen (Managing Partner MMV) with contribution from Hariprasad Pichai (Principal ADL).

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When hearing stories from successful entrepreneurs no question remained on whether corporates and startups need to collaborate: they must! But, they must start the journey with a plan and a clear structure in mind. Being realistic about what can be achieved, and appreciating small improvements over time is key. There must be a focus on clearly defined areas for the beginning, where transparency must be increased and a coherent process of how to deal with collaboration developed. Therefore to corporates the message was “don’t forget the soft factors” – internal culture as well as cultural fit is the reason why most collaborations fail.


After a reflection of his own experiences at Thomson Reuters during the dot-com bubble, Jörg Flöck led a panel discussion with Stefan Kainz (CFO Wikifolio), Andreas Schneeberger (CEO Neccton), and Michael Ströck (CEO Beavr). The startups’ perspective was revealing for many:

  • Yes, corporates and startups are and always will be different, but this is totally ok!
  • Startups are very selective themselves. As Michael put it, “Money is not sufficient. It comes down to personal fit.”
  • Provide clarity: “It would be fantastic to be able to speak to only one person in the corporate who is managing the relationship.”

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The panel jointly acknowledged that the situation at corporates has continuously improved over the past years. Doors to decision makers are opening today (“Don’t expect the CEO to have spent even a minute looking at your company in advance. So start from the basics.” as Stefan said). But the startups are aware that it’s not only on the corporates to change – they also need to step up their game. As Andreas put it, “startups need to understand corporates better.”

The panel ended with the question of what a successful entrepreneur would do if they were a large corporate CEO: “Focus on creating a culture where it is ok to fail.”, “Ensure top-level commitment all along the way.” and “Open up – for example, don’t create an accelerator detached from the core organization!”


Martin Bittner and Thomas Werner, successful entrepreneurs, former managers of Cisco’s Entrepreneur in Residence program and now partners at Acccoi shared their experiences in collaborating successfully with your value chain partners. As former managers of “ChallengeUp!”, a collaborative accelerator project between Cisco, Intel, and Deutsche Telekom. Teaming up with your traditional competitors is a powerful approach to tackle potentially disruptive innovations. Thereby alignment will have to be tightly managed.


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After understanding the different forms of startup engagement – from one-off events, accelerators, CVC, M&A, and creating real business impact in “Corp-Up” relationships,Christoph Zenk, founder of mobile advertising company geolad, shared his experiences collaborating with telecoms. 3 years from initial contact to signed contract: “I wish that there would have been one single point of contact who could run around all of the telco BU’s.”


Ultimately, when discussing their key takeaways, all attendees agreed on the imperative set for corporates to crystalize and professionalize their startup engagement process, and make the necessary changes within their organizations to foster an environment conducive to encouraging and adopting both internal and external innovation.

Stay tuned – there will be more to follow. We will launch the world’s first truly global report on startup-corporate collaboration based on participants from >50 countries on Monday, 23.05.2016!