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Corporate-startup retreat creates playbook for closer collaboration

03 May 2018

New Zealand venture catalyst ZeroPoint Ventures and IT services provider Datacom today released the output from NZ’s first Startup and Corporate Partnering Retreat.

ZeroPoint Ventures and Datacom recently partnered to bring together six founders from New Zealand’s startup ecosystem and six senior executives from corporate New Zealand at a three-day retreat to begin a conversation about the state of corporate-startup engagement in New Zealand.

Why now?

ZeroPoint Ventures co-founder and corporate lead Jane Treadwell-Hoye says, “We know that many New Zealand businesses, regardless of size or location, are struggling to embrace new ways of working, and lack the necessary tools and resources to adopt more entrepreneurial methods.

“We also know that startup founders often fail to grasp what’s required of them from corporate New Zealand.”

“Today, startups and corporates need to better understand each other. We pondered how to bring real world problems to the table so startups focus on solutions that will drive better business, social and economic outcomes for all New Zealand,” she says.

“We spoke with founders struggling to gain traction with their ideas. We canvassed the views of senior leaders working in larger organisations and challenged them on how their organisations currently encourage innovation, and whether they embrace and adopt startup approaches,” Treadwell-Hoye says.

Datacom transformation and innovation associate director Kerry Topp says, “Businesses are grappling with an extremely fast rate of change that is redefining how we do business.

“The CEOs and boards that we work with are deeply concerned about the rate of change that is occurring outside their walls,” Topp says.

“We want to support and accelerate business performance and we recognise that in order to do this, we need to go beyond what has been done so far, and do it differently.”

The retreat

Treadwell-Hoye says that at the end of the retreat, ZeroPoint Ventures promised to publish the initial outputs of the participants, created in a wiki and shared widely for open conversations and community engagement.

Playbook.nz is that wiki.

“It forms the first draft of a potential playbook, that over time with input and engagement from the wider New Zealand ecosystem, will hopefully be broadly adopted by the corporate and startup venture community,” she says.

We hope it provides the first steps to begin building an engagement model for smarter, venture-led corporate innovation in New Zealand, leveraged with founders from the local startup ecosystem,” she adds.

Who was present and why?

The ventures represented startups across stages of growth and maturity - Centrality, 8Wire, Mixt, Polyanio, Hikurangi Enterprises, and Invsta - who all had experience of the complexities dealing with large companies.

Their reasons for participating were common - lack of knowledge of who to connect with at the right level within corporate structures; frustration with the speed of corporate decision-making and their internal red tape processes; a failure by corporates to focus on win-win solutions but instead only see benefits as one way. 

Likewise, the corporate participants, including some of NZ’s largest companies - MYOB, Zespri, Foodstuffs North Island, Vector, SkyCity Entertainment -  had differing levels of experience engaging with startup companies.

Those that had previously worked with startups were keen to learn how to enhance those connections; to understand pain points from the startups’ perspective and see how they could ensure better, stronger connections with the startup community. 

Companies that had no or little engagement with startups wanted to better understand how to locate and find local entrepreneurs and entrepreneurial talent; learn of the problems encountered by startup founders attempting to engage their corporate entities and see how they could embrace startups to create new ways of working together.

Co-created outputs

The Playbook.nz wiki which the retreat participants co-created and allowed ZeroPoint Ventures to share in an open-source format includes draft templates, a lean partnering canvas and guidelines.

The working sessions produced a model that has three distinct phases of engagement, these form a potential future partnering framework:

● Scouting – discovery, information harvesting, and knowledge acquisition as a pre-engagement phase. A landscape scan and key materials are gathered.

● Dating – working out how to move from introduction to commitment (or not) in the shortest timeframe while giving sufficient information, confidence and detail to move to the next stage.

● Engagement – considers the maturing of the relationship type and the outcomes sought by both parties. A chance to decide on whether you are merely creating a creator/supplier agreement to enhance an existing product, offering a new product into the corporate range of offerings, or jumping the curve and delivering a truly innovative new model.

“We encourage everyone to join in the discussion on how we can improve startup-corporate relationships, and contribute to a new partnering model, as we believe it’s important that everyone in the ecosystem has a voice that reflects our unique New Zealand environment,” Treadwell-Hoye says.

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