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B2B Startups: How to Attract Your First Big Company Partner

During a recent event on B2B partnerships, panelists discussed how much personality comes into play when picking partners.
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As a young B2B company, one of the greatest milestones you can reach is your first partnership with a large corporation. But with so many startups vying for their attention, how do these bigger companies pick which startups get a meeting?   

In the case of Microsoft, it might just be by looking at your Twitter feed.

Head of Partnerships for Microsoft Ventures Claire Lee spoke on a panel Tuesday to a small group of about 120 people in San Francisco. The event was hosted by RocketSpace, an incubator-like innovation campus whose alum include Uber and Spotify. The panel, made up of leaders from corporate innovation teams, fielded questions from startup members looking to get a foothold through a partnership or a pilot. 

"I was doing some research on something the other day and I just went off LinkedIn and the website, and I looked at everybody's Twitter account. And I felt a bit weird. I felt like I was stalking people," Lee said. "[But] that's the personal perspective. I know more looking at these guys' and girls' Twitter accounts than I do from any website."

Diana Stepner, head of future technologies at education company Pearson, agreed that personality is a large factor when choosing which startups to work with. "A lot of times we will filter based on the person and how we get along because it is going to be a long process," Stepner said. 

The panelist hammered on the point that it is, indeed, a very protracted process. One audience member asked how to hold a large corporation's interest throughout that entire time. 

Stepner recommended finding a "champion," or someone who has seen the value in your product from the beginning and can help you navigate through the process. So how can you identify your champion to begin with?  

"Reference check people," Lee said. "You should reference check potential investors and corporate partners as much as they reference check you."

Maybe even try checking their Twitter feed, too. 

Last updated: Dec 4, 2013

LAURA MONTINI | Staff Writer

Laura Montini is a reporter at Inc. She previously covered health care technology for Health 2.0 News and has served as an associate editor at The Health Care Blog. She lives in San Francisco.




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