​Startup Playbook

5 Tips for Successful Partnerships with Startups

When it comes to staying relevant and competitive in this rapidly changing high-tech world, partnering with startups is a quick way to bring innovative ideas to your organization and drive productivity. As corporate and startup cultures differ, there are bound to be bumps along the way in forging a successful partnership.

At Ngee Ann Polytechnic, we have created a successful campus ecosystem with many startups. Whether you are a corporation or startup, this playbook provides insights into managing a great partnership.​

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Tip 1

Building a Successful Pa​rtnership

  • Startups and corporations have different DNA. Startups constantly disrupt, invent new technology, and develop new business models. Established corporations tend be more bureaucratic, using time-tested routines in their businesses.
  • Powered by digitalization, entrepreneurial spirit and agility, partnerships with startups allow corporations to adopt emerging technologies.
  • In return, corporations will be helping startups to test their product or service on a large scale to prove their worthiness. The right partnership will also increase brand recognition for a startup that would have little reach without that help from a corporation.​​

"What you get out of working on a project in a large enterprise like NP is immensely rewarding - with people of diverse backgrounds from different parts of the organizations, to drive the project and deliverables."

- Dr Sinuhe Arroyo, TAIGER’s Founder and CEO
TAIGER is a global leader in Artificial Intelligence specialising in automating complex cognitive tasks which require understanding, skill and judgement.​​​​

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Tip 2

Finding the Right Match

Finding a startup is easy but do not be too quick to jump into a partnership. There needs to be an ongoing conversation to determine whether the relationship will truly benefit both parties. Below are some of the possible ways to locate a startup:​

  • Technology, innovation conferences and events – There are many of ​these spread out throughout the year, make an effort to attend them and reach out to the startups.
  • Emails from startups – Do not dismiss them as spam mail. If you think their products / services can benefit the company, call them in for a chat.
  • Inviting startups to solve company problem statements – This can be done through broadcasting online for interested startups to apply.
  • Recommendations – This could be through word-of-mouth from friends / associates.​

At Ngee Ann, we ease this process through the help of a group of staff called Change Agents. They play the role of a matchmaker, assessing both sides before bringing both parties together to form a happy marriage. If you would like to connect with our change agents, click here​ and fill in the contact form at the bottom of the page.

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"Be patient and find the right champions in the team. Expect sales cycles to be longer and build a strong pipeline so that when things get delayed due to factors out of your control, you can still stabilize your company's opportunities."

- Teo Peiru, KeyReply​​​​
KeyReply provides end-to-end AI chatbot solutions in various platforms for customer engagement.​

Tip 3

Managing Expectations​

Startups are lean so before having a conversation with them, it is good to establish your needs into manageable phases. Divide the project into iterative chunks within short timelines.

Then determine whether the startups have sufficient manpower to cope with your requirements. Bear in mind that when their business starts to grow, the demand on their staff will increase, and this may slow down progress.

In fact, a practical consideration is to implement simple pilot projects. The characteristics of a simple pilot include the involvement of a small group of staff, an adequately complex nature so that barriers (mix of knowledge, skills, technologies and values to project performance) can be tested and a short duration of about 2 – 8 weeks.

Cashflow is always an issue for startups. It is good to inform the startups of your organisation procurement process and timeline, especially if you are a government agency. If startups need to have a GIRO account with your organisation, please check if they have a GIRO account in the first place.

Startups also need to be aware that in large corporations, payments may take longer than expected. Hence, payment could be split into two parts - midway 50% and the remaining 50% at the end of the project.

Besides creating such an awareness, there is a need to ensure that there is clear communication between the organisation's finance team and startup. A lack of effective communication can lead to unnecessary delays in payments which could frustrate the partnership journey.


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"Relating to payment, sometimes there is a communication gap between the finance team and the client. This results in vendors missing the payment window, errors in quotations/invoices, which will lead then to a delay in payment."

- Kai Xin Koh, HighSpark
HighSpark help corporate leaders tell their stories in a more powerful way through visual presentations.

Tip 4

Developing a Smooth Sailing Relationship

When working with startups, remove any obstacles that may slow down progress.​

  • Respond to request(s) and emails sent by startups within a day or two. The speed of response is crucial. Otherwise, the corporation concerned may be deemed as ‘too slow’ for them and their priority might shift.
  • Stick to the agreed plan and an avoidance of scope creep is important.
  • Establish project-related details. Below are some examples:
  1. ​​objectives of pilot
  2. expected duration of pliot
  3. number of users involved in the project (time from their daily routine must be set aside for the users to do this)
  4. ​expected benefits
  5. expected cost savings
  6. project success criteria
  7. maintenance expenses (if any)
  8. scalability of project (enhancement costs, if any)

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"For a large organisation like Ngee Ann Polytechnic, the user requirements and user profiles are diverse. Adequate time must be set aside to understand use ​cases so that our products can bring the most value to Ngee Ann."

- Antony Ma, PowerData2Go 
PowerData2Go provides seamless data and voice connectivity for frequent travellers.

Tip 5

Don’t let the fear of failure hold you back

Start​​ups may come and go quickly but we should not let this hold us back in partnering them. We have to accept the fact that this is just how the ecosystem​ works.

Sometimes partnerships fail, but all is not lost. By working with startups, we open up opportunities for ourselves to look at things from a different angle and be bold enough to put our thoughts into actionable plans.

It serves as a springboard for us to embrace change, innovate and transform the way we work​. ​


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"Have a task force team within the organisation to look into identifying needs and have an open mind to explore new concepts. Sometimes, breaking the norm is the only way moving forward."

- Jimmy Kang, Connect2Me (C2ME)​
C2ME is a solutions provider that seeks to enable users to effectively control their smart homes or offices via their mobile devices.​

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