I'm in Japan this week, meeting with Japanese corporations that are interested in engaging with startups as part of their open innovation initiatives. It’s been an enjoyable journey. There are hundreds of companies here in the world’s 3rd largest economy that are interested in investing in, partnering with and acquiring US startups, and we’ve been meeting with a lot of them.
Corporate innovation is a big topic and I’ve spent a lot of time thinking about it. There’s a lot to write about - why corporations need to be working with startups, whether partnering with corporations is a good or bad idea, why Japanese companies in the last two years have become aggressively interested in entering silicon valley. Too much to get into in this post.
One thing has stood out to me on this trip though. Both corporations and startups need to understand the wide breadth of partnership opportunities that exist. Using the same tools of investment and acquisition is like trying to fix a motor with just a crescent wrench and a hammer. No one’s going to accuse you of doing nothing, but... There are sales channel partnerships, customer/vendor relationships, proof of concept pilot programs, manufacturing partnerships, etc. Many of these tools are far more precise when it comes to extracting the value that both sides come to the table looking for.
It isn’t always easy, but it’s critically important. And that’s why we’re getting into the business of helping facilitate more of these interactions. It’s kind of fun too.
About Matt Walters
Matt is the Director of Runway. He's also a Venture Partner at Expansive Ventures, an early stage VC fund built on the Founder Institute's global network. Previously, Matt was a Principal at Ardent Capital, a VC fund that invests in early stage technology companies across Southeast Asia and the founding Head of Business Development and CFO of Topicmarks, a natural language processing company that sold to Tagged, Inc in 2011.