Startups – Do’s and Don’ts of Working with Big Corporates

Many startups want to collaborate with big corporates – they seek business development, acquisition, technical cooperation, co-marketing and more.

A few weeks ago I attended a panel with a top executive from HP and an executive from Disney. There were a lot of questions from the audience about how can startups work with big corporates. We tried to explain our view of things and in this article I will try to capture the insights from the panel:


  • Be specific – Vague agenda and targets lead to lost meeting. We see a lot of companies “seeking cooperation” but when you drill down, they do not really know what they are looking for when they say that.
  • Be relevant – Know the role of the person you are meeting and discuss things that matter to them. Do not seek BizDev with a sales person or M&A with an engineer.
  • Be knowledgeable  – People working in big corporates expect you to know your business if you plan to work with them. If you are not knowledgeable in your field you are a liability more than a value.
  • Think “what’s in it for the corporate” – know what is the hot topic in the company you are meeting, try to see how your startup can help them drive their current agenda.
  • Be prepared – If the corporate person likes your startup, they will need to “sell” you internally, be prepared with one-pager, data sheets and proposals that you can share to make their life easer.


  • Don’t assume subject matter expertise  – In some cases the corporate person you are meeting is not as savvy in your technology as you are. This is particularly true if you are dealing with a corporate who’s main business is not technology.
  • Do not be arrogant – claiming  that “Our startup will fix what is broken in your offering” will lead you nowhere.
  • Do not bombard –  Some startups send emails to 10 contacts within the big company – that leads to internal noise and can backfire.
  • Do not seek the highest ranking person to talk to  – Common mistake by startups is to seek to talk to “the guy in charge”. Seeking a meeting with a super high ranking person in a big company could be as ineffective as talking to a too low ranking person.
  • Do not forget to followup  – Be proactive and followup on meetings, take action items and show the corporate that you can follow through on your word.  Life in the corporate is hectic and balls are dropped from time to time, followup mitigates the risk of your meeting to be forgotten.

Insider tip shared from one of the panelists:

Changing standard legal documents such as NDAs is extremely hard, time consuming, and expensive in big companies. Remember that when considering asking the corporates to change their standards.

Insider tip #2:

Check if the cooperation you seek can be achieved via standard API, platform, or infrastructure that corporate is offering – remember, standard engagement is much easier and intuitive for big companies.


Working with big corporates is very much like surfing the waves – hard work, needs a lot of skill, but when done right – can take you a very long way.

Enjoy the ride.

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Amir Shevat

Amir Shevat is the global Startup Outreach lead in Google Developer Relations ( Previously, Amir Led Google Campus Tel Aviv and was the co founder of several startups.

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1 Response

  1. Dan Porat says:

    Well, I would specify even further that the advice given in the article is more for small scale startups (with almost no ip).

    While back in Anobit we had very big changes/additions/ommitions done on protocols/APIs/definition papers on behalf of the bigger enterprises of the world (Apple, EMC , IBM, others).

    It very much depends on the technology you have at hand and the scale you aim for.
    In anyway – handling big enterprises requires massive amount of cash as it is a longer process which requires much more efforts than integrating with another startup or a ready-made API.

    And in a bird’s eye – you always need the right guy to make the right connection.
    Cold calls on enterprises fail.
    It is better not to approach at all rather than approach to a lower-than-required management level person.

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