There are many ways for startups to meet industry partners. New startups quickly learn that the process can be delightfully serendipitous.
For example: one member met a vice president from a leading company at his daughter’s birthday party. Another corporate tech scout met a stellar startup founder in an elevator on the last day of a conference, after three days of dead-end meetings.
However, the “serendipitous” nature of startup-corporate meet-cutes can provoke anxiety. No one wants to leave the future of their startup to chance.
There are a few ways that startups can increase the chance of connecting with an industry advocate. These are awards and competitions, incubators, and events.
Awards and competitions
Competitions and awards can be a large investment of time and money, but payoffs can also be significant. High profile competitions can provide validation if a startup is nominated as a finalist, as well as free marketing. Finalists are often publicized on the organization’s website, in a press release, and on social media – all of which reach a corporate audience.
However, the applications can be time-consuming. Startups should review award applications and estimate how much time it will realistically take. Additionally, startups should review lists of past winners to see if there is a likely fit.
Incubators and accelerators
An incubator or accelerator is likely to have many existing industry relationships and will be able to provide coveted “warm introductions” to both industry partners and traditional investors. (Incubators and accelerators on can even use the platform to find new corporate partners, benefiting their cohorts.)
There can be a lot of value in warm introductions through an accelerator – but there is sometimes an equity stake involved, so careful assessment is required before joining one of these programs.
Trade Shows and Other High-visibility Events
Trade shows and other events can be a very good place to meet tech scouts face to face. The best events will be full of startups and universities innovating in your area. Technology scouts often have a very targeted focus, and the more specific the event, the more likely that high quality tech scouts will be present. High density events like CES in Las Vegas are also full of potential, but industry representatives may be harder to isolate amid the crowds.
As with competitions, cost is a concern, so due diligence is essential. Startups should ask mentors and peers if an event has a good industry presence. Be sure to check the event sponsors for a sense of what type of company is likely to attend.
When a potential partner learns about you through these channels, they will want to do all the research they can to make sure a partnership conversation is worth their time. Startups need to keep their online presence up to date, including company websites, profile, and LinkedIn profiles.
Interested in building your seed profile?