'Just like in a relationship, companies should date before getting married'

When a corporate and a scaleup join forces, they can both benefit. Just ask Lando Szucs, who pairs innovative players so they can grow together.

On April 24 in Brussels, 'Partnering for success: strategic collaborations to grow your business' will take place, an event by Scaleup Flanders and Agoria entirely dedicated to corporate partnering. The program includes a panel discussion on the do's and don'ts in corporate partnering, which will include Lando Szucs. As Senior Open Innovation Manager at Plug and Play Tech Center, he knows better than anyone what both scaleups and corporates need to look out for when partnering.

'Plug and Play Tech Center is an organization that connects global corporates within different verticals with startups and scaleups so they can achieve their goals together. We identify which innovation projects our clients want to focus on, and introduce them to one of the more than 50,000 scaleups in our network worldwide to execute their innovation activities at an accelerated pace, Szucs said.

Plug and Play's Belgian team is very active in industry and shipping. Here they work with the Port of Antwerp-Zeebrugge, CMB.TECH, Euronav, DXC Technology, Elia and Mitsubishi, among others. Plug and Play helps its partners to collaborate with all kinds of scaleups, from route optimization and inspection technology for ships to hydrogen transport and alternative fuel.

Other offices, in turn, are active in the financial sector. For example, Visa has launched six collaborations with fintech and crypto startups thanks to Plug and Play.

More than money

'Corporate partnering is even different than a corporate becoming a customer of a large innovative tech company,' Szucs says. 'The relationship is different, and the product or service is often still in development. The interaction benefits both players. The corporate is helped with a solution that is almost customized, for startups it is very interesting financially and a good way to optimize their offering.'

But it goes beyond that, because startups have a lot more to gain than just money. Szucs: "Often it's about market insight, or access to knowledge and expertise. Danish colleagues of mine work with an engineering company, which supports the startups not in cash but in kind. Without that major player, the startups they work with would never have been able to reach certain customers. We also see that through such collaboration, startups learn about new audiences in sectors they didn't even think about. Corporates can make sure you get introductions to relevant potential customers. There is also a lot to gain for corporates. They are generally not originally tech companies, and see R&D as a side business. For a scaleup, it's like a raison d'etre.'

Pay attention to the pitfalls

In the panel discussion on "Partnering for success: strategic collaborations to grow your business," Szucs wants to focus mainly on potential pitfalls and success stories. 'You have to be aware that there is a tension between two completely different companies, with different orders of magnitude and cultures. People sometimes underestimate the speed and manner of collaboration, or there are unrealistic expectations from the corporate to the scaleup. A small company does not make business trips from the same budget as a multinational, and also has less bandwidth to work on business," Szucs said.

The 'partnering' in corporate partnering is there for a reason, it sounds. 'As in a relationship, companies need to date before they get married. Start small with a pilot project, then scale up and implement. Do both expectation management and define the ideal outcome. Don't make false promises and allocate sufficient resources. Also define in advance what you will do if the first collaboration is a success, so that both parties know what a next step might be.'

Register your scaleup

Plug and Play Tech Center is constantly looking for new startups that it can connect with corporates looking for innovative solutions. Szucs: "The first place we will look for that is our database. All scaleups in the world can apply on our platform. It's the ideal springboard to success!'

‍'Partnering for success: strategic collaborations to grow your business' will take place on April 24 in Brussels. More info and tickets here.