How Do Partnerships Help Accelerate Early Stage Startups?

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When I was triple-checking the latest 10 more killer strategic partnership examples deck, two deals jumped out at me as important ones to highlight. This is all set against a potential partnership we’re working on for BoomboxFM that would align us with a major player in the industry while offering tangible benefits to them. So that got me thinking…

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For many early stage startups, partnerships are a bit of a mystery. I’ve seen two opposite-side pitfalls happen over and over again. The first: “We’re too small / don’t have anything to offer for a partner just yet.” The second: “Let’s just partner with Amazon/Google/Apple!”

In our case with BoomboxFM, we’re a year in and starting to see some really positive growth at an efficient acquisition cost. But we don’t have any patent-pending technology and we’re not exactly sexy (emailing curated songs). Guess we’re not partner material yet, right? HAHAHAHAH – WRONG!!

We offer some things that the bigger guys may not have right now – flexibility, speed, the ability to test/optimize quickly (maybe “ability” isn’t the right word…let’s go with “willingness”). This state-of-being is evidenced by the two examples I pulled from the deck.

ESPN & Tilt: Tilt is a group money collecting service that has been around for about three years. ESPN integrated their product into its wildly popular fantasy sports platform, allowing league managers to more easily collect participation dues.

Amazon & TaskRabbit: TaskRabbit is a small-job outsourcing app that was founded in 2008, but didn’t get funded until three years ago. When Amazon launched Home Services earlier this year, it partnered with companies like TaskRabbit to take advantage of already-vetted vendors and established processes.

See what’s going on here? Larger orgs are watching what’s going on in the startup world – MVPs, lean methodology, agile whateverthefrig – but they can’t move like we do. At the same time, startups are now Officially Legit Things and we’re putting products and services out there that the Big Dogs want. Sure, ESPN could have some of their engineers go and build a Tilt-like product and own another asset. But that would mean reallocating resources, or hiring new ones, going through internal planning processes, and so on.

And what if the thing doesn’t catch on? Now you’ve wasted time and money and human capital. Maybe even negatively impacted other accounts and projects. Enter our Cool New Startup to save the day. Hey, we already built this for you, Sir Fortune 500! It’ll cost you less to bring us on board, we’ll make changes in step with you, and we can monitor and analyze in real time together. You can test new moves out without committing yourself too much. Why recreate the wheel? It’s a win-win-win.

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