Corporates were once startups. In the technology ecosystem, both play a complementary role. In this scenario, how can startups ensure they get the best bargain while engaging with a corporate entity?
Sharing answers to this and similar other questions on the do's and don’ts of engagement between corporates and startups was Ajeya Motaganahalli, Senior Director - Engineering Programs & Leader of NetApp Excellerator, at TechSparks 2018.
According to Ajeya, successful partnerships have three distinctive pillars – leadership, innovation and culture. When people come up with a startup idea, they usually think about the outcomes. A corporate firm wonders what it would get out of an engagement with a startup, and that’s something NetApp thought about too.
They realised the startup ecosystem was a vital one, with a number of great startups with wonderful ideas which needed mentoring and guidance to build a great product or solution. That’s what inspired them to nurture startups in the ecosystem, he said.
“The NetApp Excellerator was started with the objective of enabling startups in the ecosystem to help them climb to the next level. We thought of many reasons why we should do this, but always arrived at the same answer – we were doing it purely out of the joy that we got out of it. That’s why we started this programme,” said Ajeya.
Today, NetApp Excellerator helps startups create innovative, market-ready products and solutions in the areas of hybrid cloud, storage and data management. So far, 80 startups have been part of the programme and a number of them have gone on to become successful in the market.
He says they also wanted to do away with unnecessary minuscule goals that weighed startups down. These could be KRAs, KPIs or dashboards to analyse how much the programme is progressing, and so on. Pressurising startups in the cohort into doing something they didn’t need to was off the table.
“Surprisingly, in the first cohort, we spent the maximum amount of time convincing startups that they will be taken care of,” said Ajeya, adding that corporates also need to be mindful of the fact that most startups are used to a protocol kind of environment, which is why they need assured security.
When it comes to technology, startups usually spend a lot of time talking about the various tools they want to use, for example, AI, ML, AR/VR. Instead, what they should be concentrating on is what the customer is doing, and what should their focus area be, said Ajeya. He added that it was important for corporates to look at the focus areas of these startups and then decide whether to work with them.
According to Ajeya, their philosophy is to only work with startups that they are sure they can work with, whose needs they can fulfil.
If you have the right kind of companies in your cohort, the programme will be a huge success.
The NetApp Excellerator works with startups specialising in cloud, IoT, big data and analytics, machine learning, virtualisation, data security, data management, storage, and other related subjects. Applications for the next cohort will open in January 2019.
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