Corporates as game changers for positive impact: the power of strong partnerships

During the last years, we at SEIF have started to raise awareness around impact tech solutions as a key driver for positive change. Not only with our yearly Tech for Impact Awards, but also through corporate engagement, acceleration programs and impact investing opportunities.

In our experience, tech solutions have a huge impact on several challenges we are facing today, putting things in motion towards reaching the SDGs. Building on our experience, we are also convinced that within entrepreneurship lies a great tool to accelerate positive impact innovation. 

Young entrepreneurs and tech startups are a key driver of impact tech. At the same time, big industry players have the potential to become game changers, by adapting and implementing technologies and moving in the direction of positive impact. Strong partnerships between tech startups and corporates are not only needed, but are also beneficial for both parties. The great potential of knowledge transfer and business opportunities make everyone a winner. 

This fall, we at SEIF had the great pleasure to organize a full day event dedicated to the power of partnerships between impact tech startups and industry players. We invited experienced speakers from Europe and Switzerland to hear best practice examples, their stories of the potential of impact tech and the benefits of strong partnerships. However, building strong partnerships with corporates is not as easy as it may sound. In the afternoon we discussed the challenges impact startups are facing in this regard, based on real life examples.

The overarching main challenge is the question of who to contact in a large company and how to reach them. Also, once you manage to get the support of top management, how do you deal with slow internal communication? In the end, support from other departments is crucial. Or vice versa, if you have the operational departments supporting you, most of the time backing from top management is also needed. In other words, after a first connection further cooperation is not always guaranteed. In addition, it may not always be clear whether the partnership is based on in-kind services or financial resources.

Another challenge is that the pace of business and decision-making processes is completely different for startups and large companies. How can constructive cooperation processes be planned and implemented despite these different specifications?

An especially difficult but common challenge experienced by both startups and corporates is the topic of IP rights. Large companies are often interested in the IP rights associated with the innovative solutions of the startup, but this is not something the startup is easily willing to give up. How can this field of tension be solved constructively? And how can this problem be solved when the solution is co-designed together?

Lastly, and more specifically for an impact startup, is the challenge of how a big corporate perceives the mission of the impact startup. Because of their dual focus on positive impact and financial gain, impact entrepreneurs find themselves in the middle of the spectrum, between a foundation and the profit focused business. On the corporate side, however, these two areas are separate and often operate as silos. How can a startup in this “sandwich position” build a beneficial and long-term collaboration?

Are you working at a larger company and are you interested in exploring potential engagement with impact entrepreneurs? We would like to hear from you! To continue designing and constructing great partnerships between larger companies and impact startups, we would like to hear your challenges as a corporate. 

This is not only a great business opportunity, but also a great way to create positive impact at scale. 

Let’s work together to accelerate positive impact. Get in touch if you want to know more about our services.