Now that venture capital and other sources of money are hard to shake loose, strategic alliances have become an accepted way for small companies to leverage resources. "They're no longer a fad," says Robert E. Mast, a vice-president of Venture Economics, which publishes Corporate Venturing News. Contrary to popular perception, relatively few of these deals involve outright equity. Most are built around some other interest.

How 1990 deals stacked up *

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Minority equity investments 11.2%

Joint ventures 17.1

Manufacturing agreements 17.4

Licensing agreements 27.2

Research & development 35.1

Marketing/distribution agreements 50.5

Source: Venture Economics, Needham, Mass.

* Based on analysis of 1,470 alliances; does not add up to 100% because of multiple responses.

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