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What Startups and Corporations Can Learn by Working Together

Earlier this month, we were excited to co-host our fourth Corporate Innovation Summit with Microsoft. The Summit brought together several of 1871’s corporate partners to share best practices around engaging with entrepreneurial ecosystems and startup technologies, as well as how to create a culture of internal corporate innovation.

Here are a few takeaways from the summit:

  • Building an innovative culture is an ongoing journey.

Summit participants all felt that their organizations were at different stages of innovation and thus had varying priorities, such as increasing brand awareness among top tech talent, planting seeds for future client relationships, and partnering with exciting startups to bring to internal teams and clients. 1871 has helped these teams with all of the above, but it all started with our partners thoroughly understanding their objectives and goals for engagement.

  • A corporation’s interaction with startups must be a give-and-get relationship.

The relationship between startups and corporate partners has to be a two-way street.  As the more mature entity, corporations should be generous in sharing their resources with startups upfront but also be transparent about what they want out of their interactions so that neither party leaves disappointed.  As one participant stated, “A startup’s time is their most valuable resource… the startup community here at 1871 is very tight, and if word gets around that a corporation doesn’t respect that time, it won’t be forgotten quickly.”

  • Patience is key; always keep execution at the forefront of startup relationships.

Summit participants noted that fostering strong relationships with startups tended to take more time and effort than originally anticipated.  One solution to bridge this extended timeline is to execute quicker, smaller-scale wins between the corporation and startup in a controlled environment.  By running a series of successful pilot programs, corporate partners can build a rolodex of stories with minimal risk that helps sell internal stakeholders on supporting larger-scale, higher-impact projects with startups.

While there were a few formal presentations, most of the day was dedicated to discussions where participants shared lessons learned from their time fostering innovation within their own organizations. 

The Corporate Innovation Summit was just one event in a series of programming 1871 hosts to promote a closer relationship between the innovative startups in the space and the corporations we partner with. Through regular Innovation Days, 1871 pairs startups with corporations seeking solutions, from making marketing spend more efficient to optimizing data capture processes. More than 80-percent of companies that make it through an Innovation Day engage on a pilot or other working relationship with a corporate client. 

Is your corporation interested in plugging into the innovation ecosystem at 1871? Contact

Read the 1871 Blog for news about the Chicago technology and entrepreneurship community, as well as helpful tips, guides, and insights into the startup and investment world.

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