Between start-ups and large groups, is it possible to maintain a win-win relationship?
The commercial stake is level 1. But the alliances don’t stop there. The two actors have very different but highly complementary aspirations, making it easy to find a common ground. On the one hand, large groups are faced with companies that are completely rooted in reality and in extraordinary changes. Therefore, it is a tracking method for them: it allows start-ups to think about R&D in a different way, to approach certain topics with a new eye, to enable their processes.
Conversely, for the young structure, the large group carries a tremendous technical force to strike, such as in raising R&D ideas. It also makes it possible to open up commercial opportunities to other major groups, particularly through joint offers. Because of this network, start-ups take advantage of it to better connect regional, national or even international territory. Then, depending on the partnerships, there is a big capital challenge for the large group as well as for the start -up.
How to achieve a balanced alliance?
To succeed, it is important to clarify what was not said from the beginning. All topics must be addressed: intellectual property, the sharing of knowledge, the possibility for large companies to invest in capital or even just a logic of commercial relations. Today, this modus operandi forms the contours of the alliance. Remember that anything is possible: each alliance has its own balance. This can range from simple commercial relations to co-development.
Young shoots should not be afraid of large groups: on the contrary, now there are enough successful experiences and safeguards for confidence to be established. The goal of the large group is not to steal intellectual capital from startups, but to find fertile ground for the two to grow together.
Do you see change in these alliances?
The reality of 2022 is very different from the reality of 2015, when we launched the David initiative with Goliath. Today, we have noticed a tremendous improvement in the quality of collaborations: they are more mature. Then, while digital innovation has long been at the heart of alliances, CSR is now the new spearhead. According to the results of our most recent study, 80% of large groups now consider that CSR themes constitute particularly fertile ground for collaboration.
Start-ups allow them to access innovative technology, enter new businesses or better adapt to future regulations. They are almost becoming important: 6 out of 10 large companies consider they need start-ups for their CSR projects, as they are ahead of the major trends of the coming years, whether environmental, social or social. . . Finally, in these topics, there is a new balance of power: start-ups have more opportunities and therefore may have a more selective approach to their choice of partnership. Now, they want to make sure to work with company models that are truly meaningful.
Did the pandemic destroy these collaborations?
On the contrary, the pandemic has become a real accelerator for a new way of collaboration. Young companies have always prided themselves on being more agile, more connected than large groups, where decision loops are often very long. This difference is the number 1 reduction factor for partnerships according to start-ups. Teleworking has made it possible to remove these barriers: large groups need to adapt for their employees and, consequently, for their collaborations. The method of interaction is simplified. At the same time, the generalization of exchanges by videoconference made it possible to prove that the “start-up nation” was not only Parisian but it was anchored in all territories.
Are large groups changing their approach to young companies?
They are taking more and more risks. In the past, the strategy was rather to multiply opportunities for alliances but, now, large groups are willing to invest in themselves in a very powerful way. They put an almost dedicated team next to the start-up in raising products, on the commercial side, in establishing liaison with local authorities, etc. The goal for large groups is to go faster, to have a faster return on investment. Taking risk thus becomes more balanced.