5 Ways Entrepreneurs and Corporations Can Work Together

By Amanda Lewan on November 24th, 2014 / Comments

Last Wednesday at the Skyline Club in Southfield we attended a special panel that focused on collaboration in the region between entrepreneurs and Michigan corporations.

The panel featured entrepreneurs, investors, and local incubators including Maria LaLonde of Bizdom Detroit, Delane Parnell of Incwell, Marc Hudson of Quicken Loans, Brian Davis of Bamboo Detroit and Jeff Barry of Plymouth Ventures. The ideas for collaboration were great. Here’s a few takeaways from last week’s discussion.

1. Corporations should participate in Michigan venture capital funds. Venture Capitalist Jeff Barry shared with us how it is common practice in other states for corporations to participate in venture capital funds, but this practice hasn’t taken hold in Michigan yet. Jeff expressed that corporations tend to get involved in funding because they see the opportunity to support their region. What if our big corporations participated in Michigan’s current VC?

2. Corporations should be more risk averse and work with local startups. Several panelists point out that many corporations look for validation outside of the state when trying new technology. Though this has gotten better over the years, corporations could be more risk averse taking the chance to work with a startup. Corporations can benefit from the innovation and technology produced, while startups can rapidly grow with such large partnerships.  Some incubators like Bizdom have this advantage, their network of larger companies including Detroit based Quicken Loans are supportive and open to working with startups in their network.

When it comes to procurement of technology, Barry says he’s seen a lot of hold up and slow reactions from corporations that may need the new technology created here. If the startup doesn’t get the big partnerships they need, they could look for such partnerships out of state.

3. Entrepreneurs can form stronger relationships with corporate decision makers. So how do you get a corporation’s attention? Especially one that might be risk averse to working with your young company? Delane Parnell of Incwell shared a few great tips. He suggested reaching out to decision makers and offering help without asking for anything in return. Parnell really recommended building up the relationship first by providing value for the corporation before making an ask.

4. Corporations interested in supporting local entrepreneurs can take easy first steps. If a corporation is interested in working with local entrepreneurs, they can get involved pretty easily. A company can look for the influencers, those participating or hosting local events in the community. Build a relationship with these leaders if you’re looking for new technology and talent in the area. Corporations can offer to help sponsor events that bring in successful founders, like the upcoming conference for the Midwest, Reboot Detroit or other entrepreneur events.

5. As a state we should reach out to Michigan founders to open satellite offices. Talent retention is a critical problem Michigan has faced for years. Many on the panel pointed out some of the great founders who have left the state including Co-founders of Google, Nest, Groupon and more are growing their startups into larger and successful companies. With a lower cost for office space and talent, why not create programs or reach out to these companies to help setup Michigan based satellite office? There is a lot that startups can learn from these successful companies with ties to Michigan.

Overall it was a great discussion, and we hope some entrepreneurs and corporate leaders in the crowd were able to take away theses ideas.

Has your startup had difficulty working with a corporation? What tips or successes have you experienced?

About the Author

Amanda Lewan

Amanda Lewan

Editor @michipreneur. Co-founder Bamboo Detroit. Follow me @Amanda_Jenn. I love telling the story of entrepreneurs and innovators.