What do you get when you put four big companies and four startups to do business experiments together? At least understanding on how other companies work, understanding of the strengths and weaknesses of yourself and your company, patience and a lot of empathy.
Six months ago, in March 2017, we kicked of four business experiments with companies who were willing to learn new ways of collaborating and innovating with other companies. The big companies, S-Group, Granlund, Coor and Bonava, wanted to learn about how to work with startup companies that create resource smart products and services. The Peloton Club startups ResQ Club, Fourdeg and Nomenal, as well as pre-startup team Go Far-a-day, were all looking for possibilities to scale up their businesses by collaborating with big companies. We all learned a lot during the business experiments. As a quick list right after the camp, these 5 things raised up:
1) Set your target first. Be honest about your target. As a big company, define first what you need and start searching for possible collaboration partners only after that. As a startup, be honest about the time and resources you have. Time is crucial for startups: define together how much time can be used before you need to have results.
“We have a clear common mission with Fourdeg, but now we need to continue developing our own system for startups collaboration first. Fourdeg could definitely be our partner in the future.”
– Antti Vartiainen, Bonava
2) Create trust between partners. Collaboration is all about trust and chemistry between people. Use time to build trust with your partner by understanding where both parties come from. If there’s lack of trust, it’s important to say it. It’s even more important when selling to a mutual customer.
“Collaboration is all about trust. When you go to a potential customer together, you have to trust each other first.”
– Mikko Ruokojoki, Nomenal
3) Find the right people. People involved in business experiments should have a mandate and power to make decisions, but even more important is to be excited and ready to try something new. Quite often during the collaboration people change e.g. from strategic level to operational people. At that time, make sure to use enough time to communicate the original targets also to the new people.
“It’s always feels like there’s not enough resources. But if the will for collaboration comes from inside, then you will find time.”
– Tiina Ström-Hakala, Coor
4) Choose what to experiment. An experiment between too companies can be about proof of concept, internal selling, selling together for a common customer, taking part in a competition together or something else. A lean technical experiment is important when the concept is very new. If there already is proof of concept, then experiment can focus on finding a mutual customer. The experiment is good when it has a beginning and an end and both parties agree on the success factors of the experiment.
“Even though experimenting with a mutual customer is important, in certain stage you can also learn a lot from internal experiments. With Go Far-a-day we learnt, that the simpler the experiment is, the more you can learn.”
– Ken Dooley, Granlund
5) Organise regular check-ups. Set a timeline and organise meetings with tangible goals that can be reached. Keep the agreed timeline to respect the time of other people as well. At the end of the experiment, close it and agree on how to move on.
”Facilitators from Demos were important for giving deadlines, not letting the timetable slip and pushing us to have meetings.”
– Markku Makkonen, Fourdeg
In all phases of business experiments, help from an intermediate organisation might be useful. An intermediate organisation can help in defining the targets, by explaining the point of views and cultures of very different companies and by creating a little pressure to keep the agreed timelines. As a next step, the research team of Demos Helsinki and Aalto University will put together all the lessons learned during the experiments to a manual where we present the receipts for the best possible ‘Bees and Trees’ partnerships.
“We have learnt a lot. Be patient, be flexible, be curious. We still have a lot to do with being able to work with even bigger companies.”
– Eero Myller, ResQ Club
Bees and Trees is a part of Tekes’ Cleanweb program kicked off in autumn 2016. The Bees and Trees is tackling the issues and mapping the possibilities for cooperation between small (Bees) and large companies (Trees). It is part of Demos Helsinki’s Peloton Club Accelerator.