How to navigate the journey to corporate-startup collaborations

Published on January 28, 2020


Mobility is rapidly transforming and provides exciting new opportunities. At Kapsch TrafficCom, a world leader in intelligent mobility solutions, we aim to bring emerging new technologies and business models together to leverage these opportunities. We embrace open innovation and partner with startups in order to shape the future of mobility together. In 2017, we launched Factory1 as an equity-free business development startup accelerator that supports entrepreneurs in the mobility sector. Through this program, we offer startups opportunities to build joint proof-of-concept (PoC) projects as a foundation for long-term strategic partnerships. Before launching Factory1, we were cognizant of the immense differences between corporations and startups that make collaborating challenging. We studied existing initiatives and consulted with academics, experts, and managers of similar programs. Throughout the program, we gathered feedback from different stakeholders to learn from our experience. After the program, an independent research group interviewed our corporate mentors and all participating startups (see: About this research). We didn’t find any quick, easy, or sure-fire solutions for managing a thriving program. Yet the twists and turns of running Factory1 were instructive. Our journey has led to useful and often encouraging lessons about how to create and manage collaborations with startups. In this report, we share our lessons. We lay out a stepwise framework for designing corporate-startup collaborations based on existing research, our own studies, and the Factory1 experience. To foster startup-driven innovation, we need to systematically and thoughtfully consider the design dimensions of purpose, program, people, place, process, and partnership. We hope our guide will be useful for managers aiming to navigate the challenges and capture the benefits of corporate- startup collaborations.


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