Successful cooperation between large companies and startups requires a credible intermediary
At the final seminar for Level11, the cooperation programme between large companies and startups, it was noted that there is a great deal to gain from cooperation; however, inexperience and unrealistic expectations could also quickly bring an end to cooperation.
‘As recently as two years ago large companies and startups were not cooperating very much in Estonia. In order to accelerate the process, Tehnopol, BDA Consulting and Startup Estonia put their heads together, with the result being Level11. We were able to bring together nearly 80 large companies and nearly the same number of startups, in order to find new opportunities for cooperation and to make joint developments. In the beginning, we never believed that large companies would actually be so open to working with startups. At the same time, we also quickly discovered that in order to ensure success in cooperation, a so-called translator is required, one who is able to clearly explain contrasting expectations to the other party and find solutions,’ said Kadi Villers, one of the leaders of Level11 and the Innovation Manager at Science Park Tehnopol.
According to Lo Rihvk, CEO of BDA Consulting and the person responsible for coordinating activities directed towards the project’s large companies, a unique club for innovation leaders was also established in Estonia, in order to offer those responsible for innovation and development activities with organisations the opportunity to exchange experiences, acquire new knowledge and develop a culture of working together with startups. ‘Today, two years later, Tehnopol has excellent experience when it comes to helping big and small work together, so that cooperation is a win for both parties,’ noted Rihvk.
In the opinion of Martin Goroško, Manager of Tehnopol Startup Incubator, who, within the framework of the Level11 programme, dealt within consulting on cooperation projects between large companies and startups, both parties have much to learn from this type of partnership and cooperation. ‘Large companies must review their processes and rules, making them more flexible when it comes to including partners. They must think about how to find suitable startups, validate them and to speed up the decision making process. Startups must, prior to entering into talks with a large company, do their homework in detail and get to know the large company’s internal processes and sore spots, in order to target those problems with their product or technology,’ adds Goroško.
According to Rene Tammisti, Minister of Entrepreneurship and Information Technology, as recently as a few years ago there was still a great deal of polarisation between traditional companies and startups, and the goal of Level11 was to bring those parties closer together. ‘It is my hope that in a few years cooperation of this type will no longer require the intervention of the state. At the same time, I also hope that there will be more startup-style thinking and flexibility in the public sector,’ added Tammist.
The Level11 cooperation programme between large companies and startups brought together more than 500 people from more than 300 different organisations. The programme was brought to life by KredEx and Startup Estonia, and implemented via cooperation between Science Park Tehnopol and BDA Consulting. Services were financed within the framework of the Startup Estonia programme using means from the European Regional Development Fund.
Cooperation projects between large companies and startups:
Eviko and Covisual – the goal was to bring the cooperation of architects, designers and builders, along with technical drawings, to an on-line environment and real-time. During the course of the project, a pilot project was carried out, product development activity took place, the first paying customer was found, and continued development took place.
Tallink Hotels and SmartVent – taking the spa and water park’s heating systems, and indoor climate monitoring and control, to a cloud-based platform. The result was the launching of a pilot project and stage-based development of technology. The plan is to adopt the use of the solution in stages at Tallink’s other hotels and to expand the locations of use.
Cleveron and Operose Labs – implementation of augmented reality applications for guiding the installation and maintenance of parcel terminals. The result was the launching and implementation of a pilot project. The goal was to reduce the customer service load.
Regionaalhaigla and hINF – the creation of an on-line solution for Oncology Department patients for digital visits and keeping track of their treatment plan. The result was the preparation of a pilot project and product development. The actual launching of the project will take place in July 2019.
Tieto and Fieldman – use of remote sensors for monitoring product quality in production companies. The result was the preparation and execution of a pilot project. The recommended measurement results were not achieved, since the hardware did not allow for sufficient accuracy.
Merko and Covisual – the goal was to bring the cooperation of architects, designers and builders, along with technical drawings, to an on-line environment and real-time. Cooperation reached the pilot project stage; however, due to the specifics of the company, the commercial benefit was limited.
Radisson Blu Hotel Olümpia and PayTipTop – implementation of a swipe payment kiosk for collecting donations and paying for hotel services. The result was the execution of a pilot project and product development. Donations were collected for SOS Children’s Village, within the framework of the pilot project, and a study was conducted on whether people are ready to donate more digitally than to donation boxes. Based on customer feedback PayTipTop’s hardware was improved and the startup is now focused on the donation platforms.
G4S and ChatCreate – use of talking robot solutions in marketing campaigns and customer service. The result was the carrying out of a pilot project, a tailor made solution for campaigns, and the formation of a product based company.