You've heard the saying “no man is an island?” Well, the same goes for startups. Despite the image of the lone-wolf entrepreneur, the truth is that no business can succeed alone, and partnerships can speed the growth of a startup, especially in its early stages. With that in mind, Celebrate 2015 kicked off in high gear with an information-packed morning panel on the value of partnerships for startups.
Moderator Heather Wilde (Unicorn Whisperer/CTO at ROCeteer) led a panel that included Jimmy Jacobson, cofounder & CTO of online polling tool Wedgies, Andre Angel, Founder & CEO of restaurant app TangoTab and Hartej Singh, CEO & Co-Founder of electronic payment system Zuldi. Wilde describes partnerships as a “marriage” and asked the panel about what makes a partnership work for a new startup.
While Jacobson's Wedgies recently kicked off a new partnership with Reddit and Medium, he first talked about an early partnership that the company started with Twilio for emoticons, that later blossomed into a more formal partnership.
“I think anytime you consider partnerships it's a double edged sword. It can be a great opportunity but can also be a legal liabiity,” said Jacobson. You need a framework to assess the value that a partnership can bring: does the partner align with our goals? will the partner support us the way we will support them?”
Angel is a huge proponent of partnerships, though he warns that entrepreneurs should do their research – and understand their company's own value – when evaluating the benefits of a potential partnership.
“Partnerships are a value exchange. You have to look at them in a very diligent way. It's like a dating equation. Figure out the value that a company brings to you and that you bring to the partnership.” Referencing the concept of VUCA: Vulnerability, Uncertainty Chaos and Ambiguity, Angel mentioned that thinking of the long term benefits of a partnership is key. “Change is happening all the time around and your value may change over time. Make sure the value in the partnership remains even after the partnership evolves,” says Angel.
Working in financial tech requires a measured and tactical approach to partnerships, said Singh. Working with large financial companies may require a demand of time and resources that a fledgling startup may not be able to afford. “People throw around the word partnership a lot and it can be very appealing for a young entrepreneur,” said Singh. “If you are spending too much time with a strategic partner, screw the money [and focus on yourself.]”
Despite the pitfalls, all of the panelists believes strongly in partnerships. Wilde says the power of partnerships “can push a startup further, faster” than working alone. Angel says despite ignoring the majority of partnership requests that he gets “relationships do matter” just be careful of who you hitch your wagon to.” Jacobson advises to “find a scalable way to make friends” and suggests conferences and hackathons as a way to find potential new partners, and Singh cautions startups to stay “laser focused” on their original goal. “Don't rush to get a partner,” he said. “Stay really focused on what you are really, really good at. Amazon got really good at selling books, and that's it, for a long, long time.”
On October 4-6, Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference is gathering hundreds of attendees, industry leaders, and inspiring speakers in downtown Vegas to meet the hottest startups and investors from around the country, learn and collaborate with others turning their communities into startup cities, and enjoy music, parties, and llama spotting. Check out more Tech Cocktail Celebrate Conference coverage here.