David or Goliath: Corporations, Startups, and Lessons to be Learned

A look at what startups and corporations can learn from one another to build a hybrid approach to business.

Corporations and startups have a lot to learn from one another. They exist on two very different planes but also share a number of commonalities and intersections.

Companies are business organizations that sell products and services in exchange for revenues and profits. Startups, on the other hand, are temporary entities, designed to identify a repeatable and scalable business model. In both the corporate and startup realms, you run into concepts like lean approaches and design thinking – both of which have different implications in each.

But what else sets corporations and startups apart, and what can they learn from one another? Let’s analyze both perspectives from a strategic point of view:

  • Measurable Goals. Measurable goals are the key to constructing trust and helping meet expectations and efficiency. From my perspective, a crucial pain point for a startup is to figure out key performance indicators the fastest way possible, and with a lean approach. The excess of passion inside entrepreneurs blurs the ROI in every action taken; and the search for a scalable, replicable business model is endless. For the corporate world, KPI and ROI are front and center in terms of focus.
  • Working in Silos. A failure-contributing factor inside corporations is the attitude of working as tribes and with disconnected departments, feeding the egos of high-level management. This ultimately limits the ability to innovate, restraining the autonomy of performance inside corporations and affecting market share. This leaves room for entrepreneurs to get a foot in the door with their emerging value propositions.
  • Autonomy. In today’s uncertainty-filled economy, many corporations have committed to inflexible competitive advantages, locking them into a strict position. Small venture units that move independently from the day-to-day operations of the core business and think more like startups (limited resources and high level of autonomy in their performance) will guarantee a faster and more efficient way to identify uncovered needs. This, then, creates new landscapes for the development of more flexible competitive advantages.
  • Empathy. By definition, empathy is a connection between a need and a solution, in other words: product-market fit. From the startup mindset, this is the most difficult hurdle overcome. From the corporate perspective, it is a constant struggle. Empathy is, for me, the “precious stone” that empowers design as a strategic tool to drive engaging and memorable experiences. It is a key element for corporations and startups alike.

Together, startups and corporations have a significant opportunity to cooperate, adapt and merge actions, utilizing two very different lines of thinking to build a hybrid approach to business.