Startups and Corporates: Teammates, Not Rivals

Written by Teddy Wahle, Startup Analyst Intern


For a tiny startup, corporate America can often seem like the biggest obstacle to achieving a goal like "Changing the World!" It's easy to assume that Fortune 500 monoliths want one thing: to keep everything the same. However, MassChallenge recognizes that the supposed 'conflict' between industrial incumbents and their potential disruptors is myth.

In reality, corporates and startups are both fighting for the same vision: innovations for a better world.

Aligned Goals
Corporate partnerships are the perfect recipe for startup growth. In fact, Lea LeBlanc of Wunder, one of our 2017 startups, said "meeting one of our partners was a very supportive experience and expanded my views of the potential of my product."

Clearly, when the resources, connections, and industry expertise of a corporate leader is made available to an innovative startup with hustle, speed, and a healthy disregard for conventional rules, the growth potential is boundless.

Watching Partnerships Grow
As a startup analyst, I marvel at the growth and development of a new partnership. A partnership begins when corporate partners submit their interest areas. Then, startup analysts scour the current cohort, looking for startups that might fit the bill. There's no excitement like submitting a solid portfolio, tailormade to a partner's interests. From there, I cross my fingers hoping one or two of those startups catch a corporate leader's eye.

What might come of newfound corporate-startup connections? Maybe P&G will launch a pilot program with one of our consumer products startups and sell a million units. Maybe Microsoft will acquire one of our software startups and that startups app will be on everyone's phone in a matter of months. Maybe Pepsi will ink a distribution deal with one of our Food & Beverage startups and their product will be in grocery stores around the world...

I could daydream about partnerships all day, but I have the privilege of helping make them a reality!

This summer, I worked closely with Eric Jurgeson of Mycroft AI, one our 2017 startups, who said it best: "the partnerships team has set Mycroft up with multiple exciting partners. One specifically, [FM Global], took the time to listen (and give feedback) to a new pitch and helped us understand one of the potential verticals applicable to our software. Importantly, they openly highlighted some of the challenges they anticipated in addition to the opportunities of working with them."

In part two of this series on startup/corporate collaboration, we’ll dive deeper into this mutually beneficial relationship and ways both parties can engage.