5 Big Company Objections to Working with Startups

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In my last post I outlined three important reasons big companies should partner with startups. I’ll now delve deeper into the common objections I typically hear from large companies regarding these partnership. In addition to listing these objections I will respond to each.

The objections I hear most often from the front lines of large companies:

1. Not a priority; they have too much else going on
2. No internal owner to manage the projects and/or startups
3. Needs are too proprietary to have external discussions
4. We’re happy with our current suppliers/vendors
. We do our own outreach (this answer is incredibly popular in Silicon Valley)

My response to these objections:

1. Not a priority – it will be, you may want to at least know who’s going to eat your lunch next year
2. No owner – it depends on the company, but usually every organization has a few entrepreneurial/intrapreneurial people who would love to own these projects
3. Too proprietary – even Apple lists job openings for automotive industry experts. There is no need to be specific, let the startups come to you with solutions
4. Happy with suppliers – hmm…I was happy with over-the-air tv until I saw cable. I was happy with standard definition until I saw high definition and so on…
5. Own outreach – in the HR world, do big companies only list their jobs on their own sites? Sure if they want 4 resumes, but if they want 400, they go to where the job seekers are like indeed, Linkedin, Monster. Go to where the startups are…

Top 3 Reasons Big Companies Need Startups


Nothing frustrates me more than complacency. When I hear large companies in legacy industries happy with their pace of change and innovation, I’m tempted to short their stock. Market share doesn’t take long to erode, especially when technology costs have largely become a level playing field for companies across the board.

Knowing this, I’m making a case for large companies to engage with early stage companies on a regular basis. Why? Simple, to remain competitive in the market by gaining access to the most innovative, earliest stage technology available.

Are there risks associated with this approach? Sure. But in my opinion, it’s riskier to not take this approach.

Here are the top three reasons why startups are an incredible resource for large companies:

1. New ideas: The technology cost for startups to create innovative solutions has significantly decreased, meaning more advanced innovation is taking place with very small teams.

2. Efficiency: Many times, the fastest and most efficient way to market is to buy – rather than build – and get market validation.

3. Cost: Compared to the “go-to” vendors like Accenture, startups are a bargain.

Unfortunately, big companies may have to deal with internal objections when wanting to work with startups. Next week we will address how to overcome those internal objections.

5 Ways to Avoid BD Pitfalls between Big Businesses and Startups


As SwitchPitch’s founder, my mission is to help big companies and startups get deals done. Throughout the process, we hear from both sides when they have successes and when they run into stumbling blocks. Often times those stumbling blocks come down to miscommunication.

Here are some examples of what big businesses say and what startups hear.

1. Big Business Says... “We’re launching a global innovation center.”
Startup Hears…”We’re getting plugged into their resources and ecosystem!”

Reality: Big companies do create innovation centers to foster, incubate and/or invest in new ideas, as well as attract small businesses with fresh ideas. But startups need to do homework to distinguish between an innovation center that is active and funded and has a real mission vs. one whose primary role is to create an image of innovation for the brand.”

2. Big Business Says… “We’re open to anything in terms of product and features.”
Startup Hears…”Our product is spot-on with their needs!”

Reality: Startups take this to mean their solutions are a direct hit with what the big business needs. Sometimes big businesses don’t know what they need or want. Sometimes they know but don’t or can’t share because the information is proprietary. By setting realistic expectations, big businesses can keep startups from leaping to the conclusion that it’s a wide-open situation for which they can deliver the perfect solution.

3. Big Business Says… “We’re really interested in your company.”
Startup Hears…“They see the value in what we’ve built and love the team!”

Reality: Startups take this to mean the big business understand the impact of what they’ve built when in actuality there’s a good chance it’s the startup’s founder and co-founder they want. “Acquihires,” when startups are acquired more for their innovative talent than their product, are becoming more common as a way for big companies to get an infusion of innovative DNA.

4. Big Business Says…“Our engineers can’t seem to build what you’ve got.”
Startup Hears….”Innovation just isn’t in their DNA.”

Reality: The big company may be running out of time waiting for the internal R&D or a product team to deliver. This is where a startup can fill the fast need. Or the large business may be close to launching and wants to see what else is out there in terms of features and value—to help spur their internal folks to make the product even better.

5. Big Business Says…Nothing for 2 months.
Startup Hears…”Maybe we should go ahead and build those features they mentioned.”

Reality: This is a tough one, because nothing drives startups crazier than radio silence—especially after they think they’ve garnered good traction. While priorities may have shifted internally, keeping in touch will keep the startup from moving on. In other cases it is simply time to move on. If the big company resurfaces, great. But the reality is that startups—like big companies—need to have multiple irons in the fire.

The Bottom Line

Big companies – try to keep the lines of communication with startups open. You play a critical role in sponsoring and spurring the innovations about which they are so passionate—and on which much of our economy depends.

Do you have examples of typical miscommunications between startups and big businesses? We’d love to see them—just use the “Comments” field below.

11 SwitchPitch Projects Expiring August 8th

As a heads-up, there are 11 large-scale corporate innovation projects whose bidding deadlines are on August 8th. The majority of projects listed on our platform are currently Marketing projects, Data-intensive, and/or involve Mobile/Web Development.

Some of the projects on our platform expiring August 8th are:

* Leveraging Social Media by The Washiongton Redskins (Marketing)
* P2P Communications Prototype by HP (Mobile Dev)
* Content Aggregation Platform by Warner Brothers (Web Dev & Data-Intensive)
* Aircraft Design Game Simulation by Boeing (Game Dev)
* iOS Device Meter by comScore  (Mobile Dev)
* …and 6 more listed on our platform that can be seen by logging into your existing SwitchPitch account

To date, most projects listed on our platform still have fewer than 10 bids, which makes your odds pretty favorable considering these projects are typically $25k – $100k in scale and give way to creating longer-term corporate partnerships.

Sign in to SwitchPitch Connect now to check out available projects from all recent events, and watch their presentations. We don’t want you to miss out.

SwitchPitch DC 2014: Meet the Presenting Companies

On Thursday March 27th, SwitchPitch returns to D.C. to match-make startups with big companies.  We believe that partnerships between large companies and startups are a huge benefit to both.

Here’s a basic review of how it works: Large companies who need nimble startups to tackle their fully funded innovation projects pitch their projects to the D.C. startup and tech community. Startups in attendance sit back and relax, come up with solutions to the pitched projects, and apply via our online platform to score those projects, post-event.

There are nine amazing companies presenting projects for startups at this week’s event. While we can’t tell you specifics, we can tell you who they are.

The Washington Redskins
The Washington Redskins are a professional American football team located in Washington DC. According to Forbes Magazine, the Redskins are the third most valuable franchise in the NFL behind the Dallas Cowboys and New England Patriots, and were valued at approximately $1.6 billion as of 2013. They have also broken the NFL’s mark for single-season attendance nine years in a row.

The Washington Post

The Washington Post is the most widely circulated newspaper published in Washington, D.C., and was founded in 1877, making it the area’s oldest extant newspaper.

Population Council

The Population Council is an international, nonprofit, non-governmental organization. The Council conducts biomedical, social science, and public health research and helps build research capacities in developing countries. One-third of its research relates to HIV and AIDS; its other major program areas are reproductive health and poverty, youth, and gender.


PBS is the most prominent provider of television programs to public television stations in the United States. Since the mid-2000s, Roper polls commissioned by PBS have consistently placed the service as America’s most-trusted national institution.


NPR is a privately and publicly funded non-profit membership media organization that serves as a national syndicator to a network of 900 public radio stations in the United States.

Monumental Sports

Monumental Sports & Entertainment owns the NBA’s Washington Wizards, NHL’s Washington Capitals and the WNBA’s Washington Mystics. Monumental Sports additionally owns the Verizon Center in Washington D.C. and manages the Kettler Capitals Iceplex and George Mason University’s Patriot Center. Formed in 2010, Monumental Sports & Entertainment is the only privately held company in a top-10 market to own and operate three professional sports teams and its arena. In January 2013 Monumental Sports & Entertainment launched Monumental Network, a digital platform that serves as a hub for Washington’s sports and entertainment news.

Georgetown University

Georgetown University is a private research university in Washington, D.C. and was founded in 1789.


comScore is an American Internet analytics company providing marketing data and analytics to many of the world’s largest enterprises, agencies, and publishers.

Colliers International

Colliers International is a global commercial real estate services organization with approximately 15,000 employees in more than 482 offices in 62 countries. They provide a range of services to commercial real estate users, owners, investors and developers worldwide. The organization serves the hotel, industrial, mixed-use, office, retail and residential property sectors.

The event kicks off at 1:30PM at Arena Stage, 1101 6th Street SW.

Be there.

Don’t have your tickets? Register here.

SwitchPitch Empowers Business Development Deal Between Assurant and Codelitt

Assurant contracts with startup for an innovation project it pitched at SwitchPitch NYC

SwitchPitch New York presenter Assurant, “the premier provider of specialized insurance products and related services in North America and select worldwide markets,” has contracted with New York City startup codelitt. Both participated in our SwitchPitch New York event, and connected post event via our online platform.

Assurant and Startup CodeLitt form successful partnership thanks to SwitchPitch The two will be working together to meet Assurant’s goal to build a digital warranty platform. This platform will act as a single place to store and track all of a person’s purchases and associated warranties. Consumers can take a picture of their receipt (if purchased in retail store) or forward their purchase confirmation (if purchased online) to the interface and have that information in an organized, safe place. They can then be informed of when their warranty will expire, get any updates from the manufacturer, or choose to purchase additional protection for their products.

This is one of three projects Assurant presented at our SwitchPitch New York event. Watch them present their three projects below, live from SwitchPitch, at the NYU Skirball Center.

You can view all of the presentations from SwitchPitch New York on our website.

Codelitt, the startup they’ve contracted for this project, works with clients to define, conceptualize, prototype, and create new technology and emerging media products. The products range from web and mobile applications, to custom operating systems, to integration of technology platforms.

We are very excited to see the innovative solutions codelitt will provide for Assurant and are enormously happy we were able to help facilitate this partnership.