Those of us active in the technology industry understand how valuable the "ecosystem" between mature companies and startups can be. Mature companies benefit by gaining access to innovative new products well before their competitors. In return, startups secure early customers to prove market adoption, which is critical to their ability to attract investors and much-needed capital.
The model works for service firms as well. A real-life example is our startup's relationship with a well-known law firm. It selects high-growth-potential, early stage companies and provides counsel to help us avoid costly mistakes that could impact future growth and valuation. It also introduces us to potential investors who are often its clients. In return, should our startup become the next Instagram, the law firm will have locked in a huge and very loyal client. At a minimum, it is helping its current clients by providing a steady stream of new investment opportunities that have already been pre-vetted.
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So why haven't more agencies and brand marketers joined this ecosystem? Perhaps it is because traditionally there's so much value placed on hitting immediate profit goals that there's little room to invest in the future. However, I'd rather believe it is simply a matter of confusion about how to find the right startup to partner with. So in an effort to foster more participation in our ecosystem, I offer these five guidelines for how an established brand can build a mutually beneficial partnership with a technology startup.