Entrepreneurs and their ventures/startups often focus on a very niche part of an industry, sometimes just one product at a time. They're passionate, driven, highly knowledgeable and can take care of the first part of a new product or service (often the toughest part!) much better than a big corporation. The problem? At this point, they don't have the money, power or experience to take it further.
That's where corporations step in. Some of them bring startups in-house, letting entrepreneurs basically work as if they're on their own--but with a lot of support (financial and otherwise). Some corporations end up buying out these startups while others keep chugging along in a quid pro quo manner. Just like any partnership, both sides needs transparency, honesty and to have complementary goals. It's not going to work if someone pulls a bait and switch.
Which companies are setting the bar highest when it comes to working with entrepreneurs? Here are a few to watch, especially if you have a startup idea of your own brewing:
The Dell for Entrepreneurs program is exactly what it sounds like, and Dell is going back to their roots. "Created for entrepreneurs by entrepreneurs" is their logo, and they provide scalability, mentorship, the resources and technology to help small startups follow in their footsteps. There's a special program for female entrepreneurs, capital set aside for entrepreneurs, and an intensive entrepreneur in residence program that grooms select entrepreneurs to become the next big tech powerhouses. Considered both an investor and a partner, Dell is proudly the "biggest startup in the world" and they want to spread the wealth--because they'll get some of the return, too.
You hear stories about Facebook gobbling up startups and the competition, but they're starting to play nicer. Enter FbStart: Helping Mobile Startups Grow. It's a relatively new program (one year old) that offers the tools and services mobile developers need to get their startup in motion. You can get up to $30,000 in FB funding, need to have an app live at least 30 days, and there's zero commitment to get integrated with Facebook. Plus, Facebook vouching for you can never hurt.
As part of the BizSpark program, you can receive up to $750 each month in complimentary Azure cloud services for up to three years--for up to five developers. Plus, you'll get free tools and software including Office and Visual Studio. Your startup needs to be younger than five years, making less than $1 million per year, and be privately held. With the PLUS program, only available to Accelerator members, you can score up to $60,000 in Azure cloud services per year. Finally, the Microsoft Ventures programs is designed as an immersion program for entrepreneurs complete with strong mentoring, tech guidance, and serious networking.
The aptly named Google for Entrepreneurs offers space and resources for entrepreneurs to thrive. Proud to be from a garage themselves, Google knows how tough it can be to kickstart a company, especially in today's competitive environment. They've developed "startup communities" around the world with community programs, co-working spaces, and resources for hungry entrepreneurs in every industry.
HP for Entrepreneurs is a worldwide program that helps provide training for small business owners, students and entrepreneurs who want to get into the IT industry. It creates jobs with in-person trainings, e-programs, tools and skills workshops. Using HP technology, the courses are interactive and based on real-life challenges in business. There's no fee for the courses, and you can do them online or in locations around the world.
Finding a mentor is tough--or is it? With some of the biggest corporations eager to be your mentors, it's actually much easier than you think. Reach out to some of the biggest players in technology and discover what they have up their sleeve for you.