The best entrepreneurs understand the power of people. Whether thinking about accessible healthcare or, more broadly, startup success, collaboration and partnerships have always been vital, even before the pandemic strengthened the need for a collective approach.
Of course, for entrepreneurs looking to scale their business, cash is a critical piece of the puzzle. For obvious reasons, access to capital enables a business to grow, whether that’s investing in research and development (R&D), expanding overseas, or hiring top talent.
But capital shouldn’t be treated as a silver bullet. Instead, founders should turn their attention toward creating strong, strategic partnerships to drive business growth. Working with other established organisations builds credibility, allowing businesses to make further connections and expand their operations.
Entrepreneurs, though, should learn exactly how to unlock beneficial relationships that will ultimately set them up for long-term victory. Partnerships must be win-win and goals aligned so that everyone comes out as beneficiaries.
Why connections matter.
When executed wisely, strategic partnerships can foster business growth. With the potential to form a critical part of any growing business, these partnerships benefit startups and corporates alike. For large corporations, startups and scaleups can fuel innovation; for early-stage founders, big companies can enable fresh revenue, scaling possibilities and credibility.
With established partners come established networks. Existing knowledge, suppliers and customers can make selling products on a larger scale much easier to achieve. This empowers startups to scale quickly, with that revenue used to reinvest in operations and innovation, fuelling further growth and making it easier to establish new business relationships with a wider pool of organisations.
What’s also important, particularly if operating in a crowded space such as healthcare, is the potential for impact. Healthcare solutions – rightly or wrongly – are often judged by the number of patients using them. So, establishing key strategic partnerships – as we’ve done with Microsoft, Allianz and Portuguese healthcare provider Médis – provides an avenue to millions of patients.
Infermedica experimented with different business models, but eventually settled on a B2B strategy over B2C as we had the potential to reach more patients through a partnership network. This accelerated on our goal to bring more accessible healthcare to all. Strategic partnerships enable startups to quickly build credibility and cut through loud crowded markets.
Investor partnerships can play a role as well. Relationships don’t need to simply need to be between providers, but investors can bring knowledge, connections and consultancy which can help startups to overcome growing challenges and open doors that may otherwise remain closed until certain milestones around size, revenue and customers have been reached. What’s key is ensuring both sides remain committed to moving forward together.
How to unlock the opportunity.
But what’s the best way to go about creating these relationships? For founders, the first step to achieving this is to remember that although partnerships are sealed between companies, they’re created by people and that human connection has to be built first. Talk to the potential partner to understand what they are truly trying to achieve and how a partnership could help them solve it.
Similarly, founders must understand their own goals and what they need from any relationship to ensure they keep progressing towards it. When discussions are open and the people are looked after, great relationships are forged.
Developing a partner program at an early stage: creating a network of trusted resellers and innovative partners also allows entrepreneurs to explore opportunities in their immediate area and beyond. Indeed, European founders shouldn’t simply look within their own country or continent for partnerships, by looking further afield they open themselves up to new ways of thinking and opportunities.
Partner programs and ecosystems establish a feedback community, each organization provides feedback which improves each other’s offerings, leading to greater growth and credibility for all. This also drives thoughts around integration, how compatible one offering is with another to ensure it truly adds value in a real-world environment. Collaboration with partners enables entrepreneurs to see how their product fits into the bigger picture which fuels wider innovation.
For example, Infermedica’s partner program enables organizations from all aspects of healthcare to collaborate with us and access our AI technology, enhancing and diversifying services which offer better end-user outcomes. Of course, there is still some way to go and things will never stop evolving. The top SaaS companies have on average around 350 integrations as they understand all of the potential engagement points and are establishing ecosystems that reflect them. The key takeaway: when creating partner ecosystems, always keep in mind how an end-user could potentially interact with your offering.
Take your time.
As in life, building a long-last relationship takes a lot of time and effort. So, while it can be tempting to rush into an exciting partnership or program, it’s vital to take your time to build trust and establish clear boundaries. Drawing on our own experience, it took more than a year to establish partnerships with Microsoft and Allianz, and it’s an ongoing process of building mutual trust and finding new ways to collaborate.
Remember that there should be no A and B side in partnerships. Each party brings their own benefits to the table. Combining knowledge and resources makes the relationship greater than the sum of its parts, delivering greater value to customers, industry and economy.
At all times, specificity is key to success. Be sure that the partnership is truly feeding into your overall strategy and that you have all the necessary resources to support you on your journey. Plan it well and take your time. It’s a long-term strategy that requires patience, commitment and perseverance. Rome was not built in a day, but the foundations of a long lasting relationship could start tomorrow.
Keep your goals in mind and ensure you’re going into every conversation with completely open eyes because when you find those strategic connections that just work, the opportunity for growth is truly great.
By: Tomasz Domino / Chief Operating Officer, Infermedica
A strategic partnership (also see strategic alliance) is a relationship between two commercial enterprises, usually formalized by one or more business contracts. A strategic partnership will usually fall short of a legal partnership entity, agency, or corporate affiliate relationship. Strategic partnerships can take on various forms from shake hand agreements, contractual cooperation’s all the way to equity alliances, either the formation of a joint venture or cross-holdings in each other.
Typically, two companies form a strategic partnership when each possesses one or more business assets or have expertise that will help the other by enhancing their businesses. This can also mean, that one firm is helping the other firm to expand their market to other marketplaces, by helping with some expertise.
According to Cohen and Levinthal a considerable in-house expertise which complements the technology activities of its partner is a necessary condition for a successful exploitation of knowledge and technological capabilities outside their boundaries. Strategic partnerships can develop in outsourcing relationships where the parties desire to achieve long-term “win-win” benefits and innovation based on mutually desired outcomes.
No matter if a business contract was signed, between the two parties, or not, a trust-based relationship between the partners is indispensable. One common strategic partnership involves one company providing engineering, manufacturing or product development services, partnering with a smaller, entrepreneurial firm or inventor to create a specialized new product. Typically, the larger firm supplies capital, and the necessary product development, marketing, manufacturing, and distribution capabilities, while the smaller firm supplies specialized technical or creative expertise.
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- Penta offers the accounting solution in its banking dashboard to its customers. Whenever a customer registers through Penta with Lexoffice the banking company most probably receives a lead fee. This strategic decision shows that a new lucrative income stream can be generated with a relatively low investment of resources and time by understanding the customer and its needs.”
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