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Huge Thing report on cooperation between corporates and startups is officially online!

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Huge Thing report on cooperation between corporates and startups is officially online!

Marta Janczewska-Bażak
Communication specialist with a soft spot for startups. And in free time - big healthy lifestyle freak.
Well, we’ve been working with startups and corporates for a few years now. And the portray that we saw in the media or the one that was talked about during the industry events, wasn’t always complete. Not to say that it wasn’t true. Just from our experience, it didn’t show the whole picture. So we started to wonder – are our experiences reflective of what’s happening in the whole ecosystem. And that’s why we decided to conduct a research. We wanted to check if corporates in Poland are really ready to work with startups? How this cooperation is going and what are the challenges that come with it. 

And so we embarked on a mission – and with help from PFR Ventures and two amazing researchers Wiola and Bartek we interview some of the biggest companies in Poland and asked them about their experiences with working with startups. And because we wanted to see the whole real and maybe even raw, picture we decided to run an anonymous qualitative study. But to give you some perspective who we talked to, here’s some data. 

So, what we discovered? As we all operate in a startup community, there was only one question we could start with – WHY. Why grown companies in Poland cooperate with startups? And the answers we received were, not what you might have thought. 

First of all, the majority of the companies, we talked to work with startups to improve their internal processes. That may seem unobvious at first, be when you dig deeper it makes sense. Corporates are huge companies. With tons of employees, often complicates structure, bound by many regulations and in great need to keep their customers and business protected and secure. And that’s exactly why it’s often easier for them to find solutions that already exist on the market than creating something from scratch. 

That fact that the second and third most popular answer was to introduce a new product or a service and to make a profit, really show how much we’ve grown. The fact is that many companies told that when they first started to work with startups they did it to eighter create PR buzz or to because their competitors were doing it. But somewhere along the way, they realised that they may actually partner with startups and that it may help their business grow. 

And of course, PR is still a huge player in the game. Still 50% of the companies we talked to marked PR as one of the key reasons they cooperate with startups but the fact that it’s on the 4th place on the list shows that the ecosystem is learning. 

So when we knew the WHY, it was time to ask – WHO. Who are the people who are actually responsible for the corporation with startups from the corporates side?

In most cases corporates have special entities, often called Innovation Labs that are responsible for this cooperation. But that’s not the rule.  In some cases, the cooperation with startups is still in the hands of people from other departments such as business development or marketing. But as for the Innovation labs, most of them are pretty young only a few years old. They’re also often pretty a small. Over 70% of them have less than ten people on board. Most often they’re not only in charge of working with startups but of the entire innovation ecosystem inside the company. That means, that they need to work on both internal and external innovation. And one of the crucial components of their work is to encourage specific departments to work with innovation. They need to work both with the business side – to gather business needs and help facilitate tests and implementations and with the administrative side, which is crucial during the evaluation and testing. 

So when we have the basic why and who,  It’s time to wonder how. The main ways that companies approach cooperation with startups are by organizing events, mentoring and getting involved in acceleration and incubation programs. CVC’s are still no that popular in Poland. However, during the conversations, many companies have shown interest in investing in startups in the future.  The least popular are acquisition and organizing co-working spaces for startups. Only a little more than 8% of companies get involved in such initiatives. 

So is there a specific conclusion on whether corporates in Poland are ready to cooperate with startups?   The answer is – it’s still a process. We’ve learned a lot, but there’s still room for improvement. There are many challenges that grown companies face every day in order to make this cooperation work. Often the complicated structures, lack of the openness in the company to work with innovation and the amount of work and the lack of resources that the Innovation teens face every day are the biggest challenges of all. 

You can find the report on