Open Innovation – Partnership between start-ups and large groups: a promising synergy for Innovation

Expert opinion

Asmaa CHAKIR ALAOUI, Co-founder & CEO of VelyVelo
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VelyVelo Blog SrintProject

In the entrepreneurial landscape, start-ups and large groups are often perceived with two different DNAs. Start-ups, often young and dynamic, are driven by a spirit of innovation and creativity, while large groups have considerable resources and a solid financial base. However, more and more start-ups and large groups have understood the importance of collaborating in order to leverage their respective strengths.

Addressing VSEs, SMEs or large groups is a dilemma that quickly arises for entrepreneurs in the commercial development of their start-up.

Signing a large group remains the Holy Grail for any young company, but it is not always easy for founders who “sell” a solution that they perceive as the best, and of which they are very proud.

How to distance yourself from your product to attract a large group? What are the mistakes to avoid? The elements to highlight?

In this article, we will explore the relationships between start-ups and large groups, highlighting mutual benefits, potential challenges and successful collaboration strategies using VelyVelo's experience as a reference.

VelyVelo, created in 2017, is today the leader in electric bike leasing for delivery professionals in France (4,000 bikes currently in circulation) and recognized by its customers as the expert in fleet management. As part of its development, numerous collaborations with large groups have been sealed (Just-eat TakeAway, Domino's Pizza Group, Fraikin, etc.)

What lessons emerge? Time for decryption

Identify the advantages and disadvantages of such a partnership for both parties

We see the advantages for start-ups quite quickly and without difficulty:

Start-ups often have innovative ideas, but they may lack financial resources, market visibility and extensive distribution networks. By partnering with a large group, a start-up can benefit from financial support, increased credibility and greater scale. Large groups also offer opportunities for access to cutting-edge technological and human resources, which allows start-ups to develop their products or services more quickly and efficiently. In addition, collaboration with a large group can help a start-up establish strategic partnerships with other market players.

Dear entrepreneurs, keep in mind that a large group can also benefit from this.

They are constantly looking to innovate and stay competitive in a rapidly changing environment. By partnering with start-ups, they can inject new ideas and technologies into their business, thereby boosting internal innovation. Start-ups are often more agile and flexible, allowing them to take bold approaches and experiment with new solutions. Large groups can also benefit from the positive image associated with start-ups, which are often perceived as disruptive and visionary players.

Once all that said, there is no reason not to establish a balanced relationship between the two parties.

Identify the right contact

Start-ups are by definition agile companies, with a strong capacity for adaptation and capable of moving very quickly in execution. However, in their relations with large groups, we must not move too quickly. Targeting the right person, identifying the need to express, understanding the structure are essential steps in the start-up approach at the risk of losing precious time.

The contact that the start-up will identify must have a close link with the subjects of innovation, operations or even purchases and then it will have to quickly establish a relationship of trust, of equals, allowing it to subsequently to initiate a lasting partnership that makes sense for both parties. Be careful not to oversell your solution, humility will be key in this relationship. It is undeniable that a large account will tend to be demanding, requiring a high level of commitment and seriousness. In this case, the start-up should not hesitate to share any difficulties they might encounter in terms of delivery times, or in the level of performance required, everything will depend on the level of confidence established between Tom Thumb and the Giant.

The large group will undoubtedly tend to protect its junior, especially if the solution perfectly meets their needs.

It very often happens that a start-up develops a solution, a product, a service or even a specific technology adapted to the needs of a large group, but it too often forgets to “price” correctly, for fear of losing its customer. This is not the case, every development deserves a price, no prototype should be free and no exclusivity should be required from the start-up.

Establish a communications protocol

It is crucial that start-ups and large groups establish clear communication, define common objectives and work closely together to find suitable solutions. A mutual understanding of the advantages and constraints of each party is essential to building successful and mutually beneficial relationships.

Open and transparent communication is therefore essential for a strong relationship. Share your expectations, goals and concerns up front. Establish clear communication channels and maintain regular dialogue to avoid misunderstandings and potential friction. Make sure you understand the needs and priorities of the larger group, and vice versa.

Negotiate balanced agreements

When negotiating the terms of the collaboration, ensure that the agreements are balanced and mutually beneficial. Make sure that the interests of both parties are taken into account and that risks and responsibilities are distributed fairly. It may be wise or even essential to seek legal advice to help you understand the legal implications and protect your interests!!

Continue to grow with small accounts – in parallel

When the start-up collaborates closely with a large group, it can lose part of its autonomy and freedom of action. Large groups can exert influence over strategic decisions, intellectual property or even the direction of the start-up. For some entrepreneurs, this can be seen as a loss of control and a limitation of their vision.

It is therefore essential to build a mixed portfolio, of large groups but also small accounts (SME small businesses), this will allow the start-up to develop its financial autonomy and limit its risk of economic dependence. Addressing a large group does not mean forgetting the rest.

Difficult to be exhaustive in a few lines through this article, I could debate and talk about it for pages but the essential is there.

In conclusion, I would say that relationships between start-ups and large groups offer immense potential for innovation and growth. By joining forces, both parties can combine the agility, creativity and vision of start-ups with the resources, expertise and networks of large groups. Although challenges exist, successful collaboration can be achieved by establishing appropriate strategies and nurturing a relationship of trust and mutual respect. In a constantly evolving economic landscape, start-ups and large groups have everything to gain by working hand in hand to shape the future of innovation.

Long live wise entrepreneurship????

Consult the VelyVelo Start-up article « VELYVELO: FROM RESTAURANTS TO ELECTRIC BIKES "

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