On the 19th of April I was lucky enough to be asked to take part in a webinar for Essential Retail on the subject of “How retailers can work with start ups”, alongside Fred Soneya from Haatch, Satish Jayakumar from Increasingly, and Subha Ganesh from Reiss. During the session I shared my thoughts on the ups and downs for retailers and other corporates learning to work with start ups. I firmly believe that companies who embrace new and potentially disruptive technology will be much better positioned to succeed in the brave new world, and that working with start ups is a great way to do that.
There are many upsides of working with start ups. They often have new ideas and concepts, or allow corporates to build new capabilities that they simply couldn’t achieve on their own. Often these concepts are particularly appealing to millennial consumers, as most start ups are run by millennials, and they understand their own market much better than those of us who are a little longer in the tooth!
Start ups are often lower cost than their more established competitors, and may offer more flexible, pay as you go commercial models. You might also find that you have more influence on product direction/ development, and that they will build in new features, products and services more quickly and responsively for you.
One of the biggest advantages of working with start ups can be the creativity and innovation that they bring to the table, and the positive impact that has on your own team and their ways of working.
However there are also downsides to working with start ups. Technology is likely to be bleeding edge at first, so be prepared for some teething trouble. Start ups also have different approaches and may not be accustomed to the workings of a big firm; Start ups bring bags of energy and enthusiasm, but sometimes need guidance.
You may find that as a start up grows, it’s harder to get time from the deep experts who have been with the business longest, but now need to divide their time across more customers.
It’s also important to be realistic about the fact that doing anything new and innovative carries risk; it’s equally important not to use that risk as way of talking yourself out of working with exciting new partners. I would argue that in this day and age, the riskiest thing of all is to do nothing, while those around you grasp new opportunities.