Bigger isn’t just bigger. Bigger is different. This is true in both nature and business.
Take mammals for instance. There is a predictable relationship between the size of mammals’ bodies and the speed at which their bodies run: elephants are much bigger than mice, but their hearts beat slower, they grow more slowly, and they have much longer life spans. Elephants and mice often live in the same ecological communities, but their experience of the world is vastly different.
Adapted from: https://bit.ly/2s0LkZi
In the same way, startups and enterprises can experience the same reality but have a completely different perception of what’s going on—and this can be highly detrimental to their efforts to partner, even when everything else looks like a strong match.
For instance, when a thirty-day pilot stretches into sixty days, a Fortune 500 CMO might still consider the project to be a great success… but for a startup with only a year of funding to run a handful of pilots, it looks like an abject failure. The different time scales that these organizations operate on, and the radically different pressures they are subject to, is often what leads to the undoing of partnerships between them. Instead of a substantive problem with the technology or the use case, the failure stems from miscommunications and the inability to see the situation from the other party’s point of view. When unaddressed, these problems grow until the would-be partners are unable to execute on the opportunity.
The pain of such failed partnerships can lead participants to believe that startup-enterprise pairings are doomed from the start. However, this is a ‘fox and the sour grapes’ conclusion. The truth is, there is vast potential for such partnerships, not in spite of the differences between startups and enterprises but because of them. In order to thrive in digital markets, enterprises need more innovation faster; to continue to exist, startups need to scale quickly. Scale is the specialty of enterprises and speed is a defining feature of great startups, meaning that each is in a position to help provide the other with what it needs.
But simply getting potential partners together isn’t enough. Would-be partners need a way of coming together that enables the most productive and complementary aspects working together while abstracting away everything else that tends to get in the way.
In other words, startup-enterprise partners need an organizational API.
This is something we are creating at Mumford Sole Partners. We are continually developing a set of Partnership Principles to help both enterprises and startups more effectively engage with each other. This evolving document is a practice-focused guide full of wisdom and stories sourced from top-performing executives, founders, and investors. We created it because we saw a glaring need for it—because in a densely connected digital world, co-creating value between market entities is the rule, not the exception. Partnerships constitute a critical but under-leveraged aspect of digital transformation.