5 Powerful Corporate-Startup Partnerships in 2021

Established companies usually find it hard to keep up with customers’ ever-changing needs and the latest technology trends due to their rigid revenue models. Successful businesses have recognized that the remedy is open innovation. 

As the number of corporate accelerators and incubators continues to grow, corporate-startup partnerships are proved to be the way forward. These 5 powerful corporate-startup partnerships in 2021 testify to the increasing importance of open innovation.

1. BioNTech-Pfizer partnership on COVID-19 vaccine development

Pfizer, a SwitchPitch client and a well-known pharma giant, and ts German startup partner BioNTech are the superstars behind the Pfizer COVID vaccine technology. In their partnership, BioNTech provides their technical know-how while Pfizer brings their experience in vaccine development and delivery.

The collaboration between the two dates back to 2018 with a deal to work together to develop mRNA-based flu vaccines. According to Yahoo Finance, in normal times, BioNTech and its approximately 1,500 employees are focused on developing specialized immunotherapies for cancer patients based on “messenger RNA” (mRNA) molecules.

In March 2020, the two companies announced a joint development of COVID-19 jab. The CEO of BioNTech, Ugur Sahin, stated that the cooperation is a good fit because it allows BioNTech “to develop and distribute a possible vaccine in the shortest time possible.” 

Pfizer and BioNTech’s mRNA-based vaccine was the first COVID-19 shot authorized in Europe and the U.S last year. In preparation to supply hundreds of millions of doses to those two regions alone, Sahin recently said the companies would boost their 2021 output target to 2 billion doses from a prior goal of 1.3 billion, according to an article on FiercePharma.

A massive real-world study has confirmed that Pfizer-BioNTech vaccine’s first two-dose regimen is 94% effective, as reported by FiercePharma. In the meantime, the companies are in talks with the FDA and EMA about studying a new booster specifically designed to tackle new variants. 

In addition, Pfizer has a long history of forming startup partnerships and funding biotech innovations. The Pfizer Breakthrough Growth Initiative (PBGI) is one recent example. Pfizer’s innovative culture has definitely paved the success of its co-created COVID-19 vaccine.

2. Aurora-Toyota partnership on robottaxi development

Aurora Innovation is an autonomous vehicle unicron founded by former Google engineer Chris Urmson in 2016. According to Crunchbook, Aurora has raised a total funding of $1.1 billion over 3 rounds. 

Aurora has a stellar record. Previously, Kia and Hyundai had invested in Aurora in 2018 while Volkswagen partnered with the startup in the same year. In 2020, Aurora brought the Uber Advanced Technologies Group to strengthen its team and technology. Recently, following the collaboration with Paccar this January, Aurora has just announced its team-up with the biggest automaker in the world — Toyota. 

Toyota, Aurora, and the auto part supplier Denso will join forces to develop a fleet of robotaxis, with the first hitting the road by the end of 2021. The companies plan to start the development and testing process by equipping the Toyota Sienna minivan with Auror’s self-driving hardware and software stack. Once they finish testing, the companies will begin mass producing autonomous vehicles for ride-hailing operations. 

In this partnership, Aurora gains access to Denso’s mass-production and engineering expertise as well as Toyota’s blue-chip reputation. At the same time, Toyota saves money and research efforts to develop an autonomous driving system on its own. By working with two Japanese automotive giants, Aurora would certainly approach its end goal in a more efficient manner. 

3. ITM-Microsoft partnership on blockchain technology

International Trust Machines Corporation is an award-winning Taiwan blockchain solution provider. Founded in 2019 by Julian Chen, the CEO, ITM provides a blockchain software development kit (SDK) that can be ported on low-level IoT chips and is secured with a fingerprint on blockchain.

A year ago, ITM received pre-A round funding from global leading IC design house MediaTek. The investment has brought ITM a rising overseas interest, and the new-born startup saw a surge of demand for its products among the global partners.

Together with Microsoft and MediaTek, ITM has developed a solution for TaiPower, Taiwan’s largest energy provider, to record solar power data generated by smart meters. MediaTek chipsets certified for Microsoft Azure Sphere have been successfully deployed in TaiPower’s power fields. Data collected by the smart meter will be sealed on Blockchain, and automatically connected to Microsoft’s Azure Sphere security cloud services.

ITM is currently working with global brand names such as Microsoft, Qualcomm and Taiwan Mobile. The success of this blockchain startup signifies the growing importance of blockchain in various industries. For example, technology enterprises are using blockchain to build Internet of Things (IoT) infrastructures. The ITM-Microsoft partnership accelerates the development of trust and data transactions in the era of IoT.

4. Harbor-ADT partnership on home-security service

On February 24, Harbor, a safety and preparedness platform, announced the launch of Harbor Premium, a paid subscription service backed by the home-security leader, ADT. 

The idea behind Harbor is allowing users to assess risks of their home with ease. The Harbor app provides gamified lessons and educational quiz around how users can prepare for specific emergencies that may befall them. The app breaks down relatively large projects into bite-sized tasks based on the various preparedness involved such as storing water, checking smoke detectors or having a stocked go-bag. 

The partnership integrates ADT’s 24/7 professional monitoring and proprietary mobile safety platform, Safe by ADT, into HarborHELP, a new emergency feature of the premium service. With a simple slide of the HELP button, users will be quickly connected to ADT’s professional monitoring team. ADT will then start to “contact the user, alert authorities, and share their location” with emergency responders.

Due to Harbor’s unique business model, the startup received $5 million in funding in August of 2020 from a single investor called 25madison, a New York-based venture studio that incubates and funds companies from inception. In October, Harbor launched the product publicly.

“ADT is allowing Harbor to use a fairly expensive nationwide network,” commented by Harbor’s CEO Dan Keesler on the partnership. “So, there is obviously a financial aspect to the relationship but I would say that the core of this relationship is indeed strategic. We have very aligned visions as companies and we’re helping each other do something that we can’t do by ourselves.”

5. DeltaTrainer-Anytime Fitness partnership on online personal training service

The devastating effects of COVID-19 have struck the fitness community, but DeltaTrainer’s remote training platform enables gyms to maintain six-figure revenue streams throughout closures, according to the Associated Press.

DeltaTrainer is a technology startup based in Pittsburgh, PA. One year ago, the company launched their direct-to-consumer training service that pairs clients with remote one-on-one coaches. The DeltaTrainer app uses proprietary smartwatch AI, which automatically detects movements and provides live feedback to clients’ form and pacing. This provides the same training experience with an in-person trainer, but with a lower price. As stated in the AP article, the price for the unlimited remote personal training is $69 per month, which is significantly less than the $500+ cost of a typical trainer. 

The CEO and co-founder of DeltaTrainer, Matt Spettel, said the startup responded quickly to the remote personal training trend in April 2020 by adding hundreds of new exercises to its platform that relied on little to no equipment. As a result, DeltaTrainer has grown explosively from just 1 part-time trainer with a handful of clients at the beginning to dozens of full-time trainers and thousands of clients across 12 countries now, according to the Associated Press

The startup’s corporate partner, Anytime Fitness of SE Brands, is the largest gym chain in the world. The company has over 3,000 gyms serving more than 3 million active members on 5 continents. DeltaTrainer provides the technology that Anytime Fitness’s trainers and customers need in nowadays digitally-dominated fitness landscape. 

Unexpectable yet influential events like the COVID-19 pandemic push corporations to seize new opportunities in order to be at the market’s forefront. Corporations’ cutting-edge plans and goals usually require the developed expertise from fresh-minded startups. Finding a startup partner is not as difficult as you may think. Learn more about SwichPitch’s reverse pitch method and how it helps to form powerful corporate-startup partnerships. 

Top 7 Emerging Startup Hubs Around The World

In an unprecedented era, start-ups play an ever more important role in the global economy by providing the market with innovative solutions. When talking about start-up hotspots, Silicon Valley and London might be the obvious answers. However, as globalization progresses and economies outside of the US flourish, innovative solutions and new companies emerge from around the world. 

Even though no start-up ecosystem will surpass the size of Silicon Valley in the near future, there are some worthy competitors that thrive with unique values, cultures, and sub-sector strengths. Here is a list of emerging start-up hubs around the world:

  1. Beijing, China.

Beijing, one of the most populated cities in the world and the center of the country’s finance industry, technology hub, and political power. China is making a tremendous effort to claim global leadership in areas like artificial intelligence, and Beijing specifically desires to boost its entrepreneurial enterprises. To do so, policies have been passed to reduce taxes for start-ups and high-tech innovators, as well as the personal income tax for investors in the high-tech industry.

Zhongguancun, so-called China’s equivalent to Silicon Valley, is one of the tech zones mapped by city officials. According to the South China Morning Post, Zhongguancun is home to nearly 9,000 high tech firms, including some of China’s biggest internet firms, such as Chinese search engine and artificial intelligence giant Baidu, social media leader Sina Corp, as well as regional headquarters for global gurus like Microsoft and Google. 

Moreover, nearly half of the country’s 70 unicorns and 10 AI labs are located in the area due to its collaborative and entrepreneurial atmosphere, as well as a large workforce of technology experts. “Beijing is home to 1,070 AI companies, 26% of China’s total,” stated in a Startup Genome report. The report also indicated Bytedance, the owner of TikTok and a Beijing-based AI unicorn, is the world’s largest privately backed startup valued at $95 billion. Recently, according to CNBC, a new $2.1 billion AI technology park is under construction in Beijing’s suburban Mentougou district.

  1. Singapore, Republic of Singapore.

Singapore is one of the world’s economic and technological powerhouses. It is strategically positioned as an entry point into the Asia-Pacific region and its port functions as a perfect hub of trade and logistics. Moreover, it has strong research institutions and a great system that protects intellectual property. As a result, Singapore is currently ranked 17th on the Global Start-up Ecosystem Report 2020 by Startup Genome. Singapore now has more than 4,000 tech-enabled start-ups, which is a significant growth from about 1,000 in 2014, according to a PwC study

Singapore has seen speedy growth in the total number of startups over the years: from 22,000 in 2003 to 43,000 in 2016. It had given birth to several powerful unicorns, such as Grab, Lazada, and Sea during this time frame. The most important factor that facilitates the growth of the startup ecosystem is the government’s support.

Startups in Singapore have access to significant government funding through more than 10 funding bodies, such as SPRING Startup Enterprise Development Scheme and the Early Stage Venture Fund Scheme. There are also startup-friendly policies including subsidies and a range of incubation schemes. For example, the National Research Foundation’s Early Stage Venture Fund catalyzes the formation of funds to invest in startups. 

In addition, Startup Genome’s report stated that “as part of Singapore’s Research Innovation and Enterprise 2020 5-year plan, the government has allocated $4 billion to health and biomedical sciences R&D,” which indicates that these sub-sectors will continue to grow. Last year, Singapore’s first coworking innovation space for Medtech and healthtech startups, Catalyst, was launched, as well as the BlueChilli HealthTech Accelerator. 

Regarding the startup market in fintech, the Monetary Authority of Singapore has introduced a fintech regulatory sandbox program, an innovation lab, and an innovation village called LATTICE80. The city also hosts the Singapore FinTech Festival x SWITCH, which is the biggest fintech and innovation event in the world, attracting more than 60,000 participants from over 130 countries.

  1. Melbourne, Australia.

Melbourne is known for its diverse and inclusive culture, world-class universities and research institutes, as well as its vibrant and livable city life. More and more passionate entrepreneurs choose to start their dreams in Melbourne to enjoy its extraordinary coworking spaces, talent market, networking events, as well as government and state’s support. As Wade Institute puts it, “Victoria is Australia’s ‘startup state’ and Melbourne is the heartbeat.” Victoria’s ecosystem has an estimate of over 2,000 startups from seed stage to high growth enterprises. Its large community of startups nurtures more networking events. 

In the Victoria region, there are 190 meetup groups centering around startups and entrepreneurship, with another 460 tech-specific groups, according to Wade Institute. The interactive and collaborative culture is continuously strengthened in the coworking spaces. The City of Melbourne reported that Greater Melbourne has seen 960% growth in the number of coworking spaces from 2013 to 2016, with 24 new spaces being added in 2016 to make a total of 170 spaces across the city. Melbourne’s central business district is now the coworking capital of Australia.

Melbourne is home to some of Australia’s most iconic startups that have already grown to become successful international businesses. For example, Realestate.com.au, Seek.com.au, and carsales.com.au were founded in the late 1990s and are each valued at more than $2 billion today, according to the City of Melbourne

Recent booming startups such as Redbubble, Tribe, Envato, and Vinomofo, have the great potential to catch up to their startup predecessors. The AVCAL 2016 Yearbook captured the record level of fundraising levels for Australian venture capital funds, with $78 million invested in 20 Victorian headquartered companies. According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Report 2020, the value of Melbourne’s startup ecosystem has grown by over US$2 billion in the past year alone. We can also see steady growth in ecosystem value from US$1.6 billion in 2018 to US$2.24 billion in 2019 and US$4.8 billion in 2020. 

Melbourne’s startup economy has exceeded growth expectations, and its strength in health, biotech, and life sciences, as well as the emerging creative technology and marketplaces, will continue to be reflected in Melbourne’s startup DNA. 

  1. Lisbon, Portugal.

Lisbon’s startup scene is in an early stage, but it is growing rapidly to become the startup capital of Southern Europe. 

After the economic crisis that struck Portugal in 2012, the government started to provide more opportunities for the world and embrace entrepreneurship in order to get more capital and a more stable economy. Since 2014, Lisbon based startups have raised more than €200 million (approximately $240 million), according to EU-Startups

As of 2018, 7264 companies have been created in Lisbon, and 743 of them are in the high-tech sector, according to Made of Lisboa, the entrepreneur community of Lisbon based innovators. From electronics to software, companies such as Veniam, Talkdesk, Feedzai, and Outsystems started their journey here and have achieved global success. 

Lisbon has also attracted big multinationals to open offices here. Just to name a few, Mercedes’s Digital Delivery Hub, Volkswagen’s massive software team, Google’s support center, and BMW’s team for software development. Their presence adds more knowledge sharing and collaborative opportunities to the startup scene. 

The Portuguese government put a lot of effort and resources in order to promote and support the local startup ecosystem. As reported by EU-Startups, the Portuguese government created a €200 million venture capital fund in 2018, intended to boost foreign investments in startups. 

Related to this, like many other EU countries such as Spain and Greece, Portugal offers a golden visa to non-EU residents who invest €500,000 (approximately $600,985) or more in property. In addition, tech entrepreneurs can get a startup visa, which makes starting a business in Lisbon much easier. 

Technology conferences like the Web Summit and the Lisbon Investment Summit have significantly contributed to putting Lisbon on the European tech map. These big events attract tech professionals to the city and provide home-grown startups the opportunity to pitch international venture firms on a frequent basis. 

With Lisbon’s high-quality engineering talents at a competitive cost and its ample amount of coworking spaces like Cowork Lisboa and Beato Creative Hub, the city’s ability to absorb and accelerate new businesses continues to expand.

  1. Jerusalem, Israel. 

Jerusalem ranked in sixth place in Startup Genome’s Global Startup Ecosystem Report for 2020, showing its growth amid the pandemic. The report also highlighted Jurusalem’s strengths in life science, biotech, and AI. The city has about 150 life sciences companies and over 80 AI companies which benefit from an extensive municipal support net and its world-class academic institutes. 

NoCamels.com quoted Jerusalem Mayor Moshe Lion in 2020: “There are currently 550 technology companies, 12 accelerators and hubs, and 18 investment funds in Jerusalem. Some 350 technology-related events are held in Jerusalem every year, and are growing.”

He also announced that the city will invest NIS 300 million (approximately $90 million) over the next few years in the city’s knowledge industry with new offices and related industries. 

In the area of AI, the city has the largest AI-focused R&D center in Israel. Success stories include the Jerusalem-based autonomous car technology startup Mobileye. The company got global attention when it was acquired by Intel for $15 billion in 2017

In Life Sciences, as reported in a blog post by Startup Genome, Jerusalem is one of the top 10 ecosystems in the world with more than 150 Life-Sciences-focused startups clustered in a relatively small area. In fact, OrCam, the first and only Israeli digital health startup worth more than $1 billion, was born in Jerusalem.

Jerusalem’s ecosystem supports Life Sciences with workspaces that cater to startups in the field, including the BIOHOUSE inside Hadassah Hospital and the BioGiv Excubator lab space at The Hebrew University. To better understand its scale, Startup Genome stated that Jerusalem is tied at #1 with San Diego for density of Life Sciences startups. Jerusalem as one of the most historical cities in the world is actually dynamic and fresh with its promising startups.

  1. Miami, United States of America.

At home, Miami has been under the radar of entrepreneurs and investors. Last year, startup founders and investors in Miami raised close to $1 billion in venture funding, according to preliminary Crunchbase data. Interestingly, while the deal count last year was the lowest in five years, the dollar volume of venture capital invested in Miami was the highest there had been for the same period of time. 

Since 2012, Knight Foundation has invested more than $25 million in co-working spaces, accelerators, and events to support Miami’s startup ecosystem, according to Miami Herald. Other organizations like Goldman Sachs, Endeavor, and Cambridge Innovation Center soon followed the trend to establish startup-related programs in the city. Many co-working spaces opened as a result, and the University of Miami, Florida International University, and Miami Dade College even added entrepreneurship programs. 

  1. Austin, United States of America

Even before Miami became a strong player in the startup scene, Austin was already under the spotlight with its strength in sub-sectors like cleantech and cybersecurity. According to the Global Startup Ecosystem Ranking in 2019, Miami was ranked at the 26th while Austin was ranked at the 16th out of the 150 cities measured around the world. The report has also named Austin among the top 10 cybersecurity ecosystems in the world. Rising cybersecurity startups like ClearDATA and SparkCognition, as well as the U.S. Army Futures Command Center have all brought in tech talents and promoted tech innovation in Austin. 

Austin is also home to the University of Texas’ Clean Energy Incubator, which is one of the longest-established energy and cleantech incubators in the United States. Some local clean energy startup success stories include Energy Curb and Banyan Water.

On the whole, tech companies are decentralizing out of Silicon Valley to escape high taxes, rent, politics, as well as to attract new talent. As stated in The Business of Business, job listing data across eight major tech companies including Google, Amazon, Paypal, Apple, Microsoft, Dell, Ebay, and Oracle shows a 38% increase in job listings for Austin between July 31 and December 21 in 2020. Similarly in Miami, where job listings across six major tech companies have increased 40% in the same time period. Lower cost of living, geographic location, and prominent local universities have all made Austin and Miami the new mecca for entrepreneurs and big corporations alike. 

By watching emerging startup cities around the world, we can identify some recurring factors that fuel the growth of the startup ecosystem: governmental support, favorable policies and incentives, convenient location, coworking spaces and communities, talent market, as well as local research and educational institutions. More importantly, startups based in those renowned tech hubs have more opportunities to raise funds, attract investors, and develop corporate connections. For more information on startup relationship management, check out SwitchPich’s home page.

Top 5 COVID-related changes from startup accelerators

Startup accelerators can help a small startup grow into a multi-million-dollar company. Success stories include some of the world’s most famous companies, such as Airbnb and Dropbox. However, like many areas of life, startup accelerators have had to drastically change their operations due to the COVID-19 pandemic.

Some worry that this will impede innovation efforts and result in multiple failed business ventures.

Though this pandemic has brought many hardships, startup accelerators have actually seen a number of positive changes related to innovation and flexibility. Here are some trends we have noticed:

1. More opportunities for innovation

Because of the COVID-19 pandemic and all the business questions that have arisen due to it, companies are now under more pressure to create innovative and long-lasting products related to healthcare, tech, and other industries that are beneficial to COVID-19 response.

2. A lesson on adaptability and resilience

Like many businesses, startup accelerators have had to adapt their operations to the restrictions that were brought on by the pandemic.

Techstars, a Boulder-based accelerator, had to shift its in-person operations in the middle of its cohort in March. They had to close their office, shift all in-person meetings into virtual ones, and rescheduled its in-person demo day to a virtual one in April. Companies in the accelerator have had to revisit existing financial plans, move sales processes to be more digital-friendly, and have had to predict the future climate of their markets.

All in all, these businesses have had to adapt to the changes that the pandemic has brought to the business. One could argue that this time has been a lesson on adaptability and resilience, which entrepreneurs will learn and apply to any current and future business ventures.

In an article written by BizJournals.com, Techstars Boulder Managing Director Natty Zola said “Dealing with the response and recovery to the pandemic is going to end up being a master class in adaptability and resiliency for all entrepreneurs.”

3. Easier mentor-mentee relationships

In a pre-pandemic world, scheduling a time for mentors and mentees to meet in person would involve a lot of planning. However, due to the pandemic essentially halting most travel, many mentors and mentees have opted to meet via virtual means in order to decrease risk.

In an article on Startup Beat, The Managing Director of Techstars Anywhere Ryan Hudder said that he actually found it easier for mentors to engage with their mentees when they do not have to block out several days to travel.

In this article, Hudder said, “We find it to be really great for the founders because it enables them to develop those relationships both formally with their scheduled calls but also informally by pinging people on Slack.”

4. Location is no longer a concern

Due to the pandemic, a number of startup accelerators have seen geographical location becoming less of a priority to external sources who are interested in becoming involved with them.

Cornell University’s startup accelerator is a classic example of this. Located in Ithaca, New York, they have noticed a newfound interest in entrepreneurial opportunities in upstate New York; this proves to be beneficial to their university accelerator, Praxis Center.

In an article written by Cornell Chronicle, Robert Scharf, who is the director of Cornell’s Praxis Center said, “ironically, the COVID-19 pandemic enhances entrepreneurial opportunities in upstate New York, since geographical location is a much lower priority in our virtual working-from-home, working-from-anywhere environment – advantages previously enjoyed by large coastal cities with hub airports are now inverted. Economic leverage has shifted to small inland cities with lower costs and healthier lifestyle options.”

5. More Funding for some

In some cases, some accelerators have received more funding from government entities due to the pandemic. In May 2020, the Michigan Strategic Fund approved the transfer of an additional $70,000 to the Business Accelerator Fund (BAF), which allows startup accelerators in Michigan’s SmartZone network to participate in specialized services otherwise not available to them.

Previously, the Michigan Small Business Development Center also provided a series of grants up to $50,000 to startup accelerators to help tech startups access certain services that were essential to their growth.

All in all, though this pandemic has forced the business world to adapt like never before, we have noticed trends and patterns related to startup accelerator growth that have proven to be beneficial.

Startup Relationship Management during COVID-19

The COVID-19 pandemic has affected all areas of business, and startup relationship management is not an exception. Since many startup events have been canceled for the foreseeable future, companies involved in startup relationship management are finding it increasingly difficult to manage startup relationships without these events.

Prior to the pandemic, startup relationships were easily managed through events such as demo days, in-person accelerators, and pitch events. With social distancing measures in place and most work going virtual, these events have been harder to organize.

The first major event that was canceled due to COVID-19 was South by Southwest. South by Southwest was essentially an annual event that consisted of multiple exhibits that served many different industries, including tech, media, and film.

Events such as this gave startups exposure and networking opportunities, which are especially essential for early age startups. For larger corporations, this gave them the opportunity to find new talent and establish partnerships with startups that could help them solve current business problems. All in all, these events were essential for establishing and maintaining corporate-startup partnerships.

In a 2020 McKinsey study, 75% of surveyed startups considered partnerships with corporates to be an important aspect of their business; 63% of these startups also said that they anticipate partnerships becoming increasingly important in the future. In the same study, interviews with corporates showed that executives believed that these partnerships with startups were the key to innovation and product development.

Most of the events that were critical for startup relationship management have either been canceled indefinitely, been moved completely online or have been turned into hybrid events.  

However, some have expressed their opinions and said that in-person events give participants certain elements that virtual events fail to offer. When you meet face-to-face, it is easier to build trust and engage

 with people since there are often fewer distractions around you and it is easier to detect non-verbal cues.

With COVID-19 and all the uncertainty that accompanies it, corporations are now under pressure to be innovative and restructure their business models to be more versatile to unforeseen events. Now more than ever, technology has become a key factor in creating and sustaining these relationships.

Though in-person events gave corporations more opportunities to meet more startups, there are numerous technological alternatives that would still enable these companies to expand their lines of innovation. These alternatives include startup relationship management platforms, which allow corporations to connect with startups in order to expand business lines and solve key innovation issues.