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How to deal with multinationals to develop your idea

Posted 3 years ago

Collaborating with a larger organisation can be a shorter route to get your idea onto the market sooner.

I’m the interim CEO of a start-up company that finalised two big dollar deals with multinationals before the technology was verified through our own proof of concept program.

Two key factors helped.

 

Firstly, our platform technology has useful characteristics for working across a range of products.

Secondly, a number of multinationals operate in the sector around the world, so it’s highly competitive and desire for a technologically sharpened edge is strong.

I’m often asked how these deals (and others) were achieved, so here are five pointers from what I’ve learnt about working with multinationals over the past decade (note: this is from the perspective of a new product or service technology, or an idea that is new to market).

1. Understand how multinationals operate:
The bureaucracy within multinationals rivals that of many governments. Restructuring is often as problematic (from an external engagement perspective) as a change in government. Plus, you need to understand how the particular multinational that you are targeting assesses and adopts new technologies. This may seem obvious but not, apparently, to many inventors/entrepreneurs. Instead, they seem convinced that a multinational is going to drop everything to adopt their new product or service based on the idea or pitch alone. Such a response is, in fact, as rare as unicorns.

2. Get to know the technical people: What impact will your technology have on the technical people already working in the company? Are they already working on an internal solution? Is what you are proposing going to have a major internal cost? Could your technology put them out of job? Often one of the key requirements to gain traction within a multinational is for the technical people to be fully on board.

3. Understand budget cycles: Innovation owners often equate multinationals with multimillion dollar resources. Sure, they generally make decent profits out of existing products and services; but it’s essential to understand how they mobilise resources to assess, access or in-license new products, systems or services. These budgets are often small and already allocated. Asking questions about budget allocation processes always helps to identify how you can both work for mutual gain.

4. Inform before you sell: Another trap we often see is the technology or idea owner trying to sell the concept from the outset. Often a better approach is to first focus on information sharing and understand decision-making in that company. If you can develop a relationship with a few key people who know what you are doing, you’re on your way to start more serious selling discussions (hot tip: it’s also a means for gaining some internal intelligence on process before you start pushing the financial exchange).

5. Be patient: Getting very edgy about how long these deals take won’t speed them up. Understand that if you get a deal finalised within six months, you’ve done very well and will have your own success lessons to share.

Impact Innovation helps Australian businesses connect with global companies to advance new technologies. We also scout new technologies for multinationals.  If these are services you need, contact us.

– Brian Ruddle, Managing Director

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