Sometimes, the most revolutionary action is a handshake agreement to do something exceptional together.

Exponential growth usually happens because of a partner, customer, or product integration with software. The coveted hockey stick growth curve rarely points up with lone actions.

Partnerships usually take a long time and can be very challenging to get off the ground. But they ultimately yield large results that are long-term sustainable. Every small-business owner should take a moment right now: Think about the largest enterprise companies in your space and how you might plug in with them.

Medium-size companies can do the same: What brands exist that are complementary to--rather than competitive with--whatever you offer your customers? And enterprise corporations are often looking for those kinds of opportunities too: What small startups can make them more innovative and keep them fresh?

On Tuesday, at the 2019 Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas, I observed incredible advancements through partnerships. I've decided to tell you about them with the help of four famous partnership-themed quotes:

"Alone, we can do so little. Together, we can do so much." --Helen Keller 

Intel and Hoobox Robotics teamed up to display a joint venture for people with disabilities that I found pretty incredible: a motorized wheelchair that can be moved by facial expressions. It involves a lot of artificial intelligence and advanced vision technology, paired to create mobility that's literally based on the blink of an eye.

Intel is a huge company. Hoobox Robotics is smaller, and it did something smart here that you can also do: If your company has a revolutionary breakthrough but you don't have the capacity yet to go to market, partner with an enterprise company that has larger capabilities.

Of course, if you do this, make sure to protect your intellectual property. Lawyer up and get everything legally locked down. Then go for it. 

"If I have seen further, it is by standing on the shoulders of giants." --Isaac Newton 

Or, in this case, the shoulders of tiny insects. The University of Washington has figured out a way to put backpacks on bees. Why? So they can wear miniature circuit breakers with antennas that report weather patterns around farms. The backpacks weigh about the same as a grain of rice.

Who's the partner, you're asking? It's the bees. Yes, partnerships don't always have to be conventional business-to-business deals.

There's a lesson here, especially if you're running into a problem and can't seem to hack it within your company: Find the most outside-the-box partner you can, and find out if they can help solve your biggest (or, in this case, smallest) problem.

"I always believed that our expansion would above all depend on the excellence of a handful of results-driven researchers whose primary virtues were imagination and determination." --Eugène Schueller

Together, L'Oréal and La Roche-Posay debuted a dime-size wearable device that sticks on your body to track your skin's pH levels. That's potentially a big deal: If you pay attention to your skin, you know that pH has everything to do with skin care and the skin products you should be purchasing.

This is the result of a very long-term partnership--after starting as a standard business deal, L'Oréal actually acquired La Roche-Posay. It's arguably one of the best end results for a lot of partnerships.

Whether you're aiming to get acquired or not, your startup has the ability to pivot faster than enterprise companies. You can bring unique technologies to larger, more cumbersome companies. Know your value and make sure you get paid for this kind of innovation.

"Individual commitment to a group effort--that is what makes a team work, a company work, a society work, a civilization work." --Vince Lombardi

The Matrix PowerWatch 2 is competing with the big boys in the watch industry by using thermometric and solar charging. That's right, it gets charged through your own body heat. Much like the bees, the partner here isn't another company. It's you, or people like you. The product exists thanks to crowdfunding--its campaign raised $744,000 from 3,477 backers.

There's a lot of potential in crowdfunding. The difference between crowdfunding and a more standard type of partnership is that instead of having one partner, you have the general public as your best ally.

I encourage you to think early and often about whom you might saddle up with to leverage joint funding, customer relationships, and markets. I'll bring this to a close with one final quote, this one from Simon Mainwaring: "Change is almost impossible without industry-wide collaboration, cooperation, and consensus."

Published on: Jan 9, 2019