Rajiv Mathew, Head – Corporate Innovation and Market Connect Asia Pacific and Japan, Oracle for Startups; Pankaj Mitra, Director- Investments and Acquisitions, CISCO, and Subinder Khurana, Founder and Former Lead Mentor, NASSCOM DeepTech Club participated in the session on “Lessons on successful startup-corporate collaboration for Deep Tech”
One of the success mantras for startups includes riding on the shoulder of giants. In business-speak that means corporate. Be it access to resources or finding the right mentor, corporates can extend mammoth support for startups with the holy trinity of people, process, and technology. But what makes for a successful collaboration, red flags that the corporates back out of, and the right mentorship approach in finding the product-market fit?
Corporate perspective: Integrating the right startup successfully
Pankaj Mitra said, “Cisco has been an active investor and has a deep engagement with startups. It comes down to the strengths: corporate has resources, customer relationships, tech platforms; startups have an ability to take risks and have scalability. Combining the two makes a good proposition. If a startup aligns to a corporate customers’ requirements, it could be a marriage made in heaven.”
While the approaches are varied due to different objectives, the integration depends on the corporate’s gaze and expectation from the startup ranging from acquihire, new disruptive idea thereby extending product portfolio, or as a partner and fund them, said Rajiv Mathew.
“To ensure successful integration, have early conversations on a vision for achievement and make a 100 or 90-day plan, set up joint integration team, constantly review those plans and see if the objectives are fulfilled.
Also, nominate a champion to interface with the startup, keep informal and formal touchpoints to help support the startup. Additionally, build and retain a culture that stands out,” he said.
Combining the two makes a good proposition. If a startup aligns to a corporate customers’ requirements, it could be a marriage made in heaven.
What accounts for a successful incubator?
Subinder Mathew said, “Incubators are testbeds for ideas. One of the reasons for success is a great network and support system including mentors, co-working space, etc.
To succeed, reduce the risk for the entrepreneur, and have a tie-up with the university or R&D of a corporate. Alliances with other accelerators and incubators of different markets also work to a large extent to ensure a better product-market fit.”
Mentoring startups to scale and expand in other geographies
Khurana opined, mentors make a fundamental mistake. The role is not to tell the startup what to do rather help the startup avoid expensive mistakes. Startups by definition have to break rules.
“Therefore, as a mentor show them that breaking those rules does not result in expensive mistakes. Don’t give answers, help them ask the right questions. Don’t share rules, but stories as the latter become guides. Lessons have to be learned and applied by entrepreneurs. Another major role of a mentor is to provide emotional support,” he explained.
Mitra also relies on drawing upon experiences to become a sounding board and provide whatever help you can.
“Also, in terms of geographical expansion, we take a structured approach in helping startups expand to geographies outside India. Talking to the right people with enterprise tech expertise and having a channel to the right customers outside India is important and we pay a lot of emphasis on it.
The portfolio development team invests its efforts in it—connect founders with sales channels, showcase them in events in the US, thereby driving a ton of visibility and exposure. Efforts like that can reap large dividends,” concluded Mitra.