Skip to main content

Getting the most out of an L Marks Innovation Lab

Alex Reynolds

L Marks Corporate Innovation Labs bring together startups and our corporate partners for 10 weeks’ intensive collaboration. Startups have the chance to run pilots with our partners and work closely with senior executives to explore opportunities for a longer-term commercial partnership. If you’re looking to give your startup a fantastic start through one of our Innovation Labs, be sure to draw on these 13 tips:

Rules of Engagement

The nature of your partnership with the corporate during the programme will determine your progress together in the Lab and, importantly, beyond. It is essential to spend the defined collaboration period reaching your objectives by Demo Day whilst maintaining and solidifying a longer-term vision of what you want your relationship to look like in 6 months, 12 months and further.

Scope out 3-5 relevant use cases

It’s highly unlikely that during the programme you will undertake 3-5 use cases. The importance here is to scope out multiple areas of commercial value that you could prove during the Lab period.

Review and be open

All startups know that external input is essential in the development of their products and propositions. Be open to the limitations and growth areas of your business. Do not over-promise.

Who holds the budget?

Long-term success depends on understanding the needs of the business and who in the business can sign off the budget. Address them in any proposal you make and get them on board.

Getting to know the corporate team – it’s a people game

Be eager to meet the wider team that will work alongside the corporate lead. They will undoubtedly be involved in the project and you will rely on them in some shape or form.

We know that one of the biggest obstacles to a commercial relationship between our startups and corporate partners is the loss of the corporate lead. For example, the lead may leave the company or be rotated into a different department or retire. We’ve seen engagement plummet due to this.

Understand the structure

Take this chance to understand the structure of the corporate you will be collaborating with. Corporate entities can be political, siloed and bureaucratic. Navigating this is essential in removing any blockers you may face.

Don’t forget about commercial and procurement teams

Procurement can be seen as ticking boxes to reduce risk. The placement of the boxes in the process will differ from company to company but the content of the boxes will essentially be the same. Understanding this process is essential to streamlining your business proposal post-programme and foreseeing any potential risk.

Long-term value, short-term outputs

You should aim to deliver on the agreed objectives in the short term whilst building up the momentum for a long-term relationship. You and the corporate have free rein over how to structure engagement during the lab, but it’s advisable to have a long-term goal with regards to your ideal relationship in the future – whether that be a commercial relationship or input on future product development etc.

Want to be a great communicator? Use plain englisH

Both startups and corporates should speak in plain English! Some relationships never take off because of cultural differences and language barriers. The cultural differences between startups and corporates are obvious – and the best solution is to speak in plain language. No lingo, no acronyms, no company vernaculars.

One key examples seen time and time again is a tech-savvy startup speaking in a language remote to the corporate lead. Startups fail to sell their propositions because the corporate just can’t understand them!

Understand the calendar that the corporate is working to

Most corporates have their calendars planned out for the coming year, whether that be annual or monthly reporting, the annual innovation fair or annual reviews. These events can either be an opportunity (an apparent one or one in disguise) or a major risk to your engagement. These events may draw resources away from their engagement with you, but they may equally provide opportunities for you to participate in key events.

Understand your roadmap

Remain vigilant and do not commit resources that may sacrifice your product roadmap without a contractual obligation from the corporate. Startups should retain their core strengths during the lab, remaining lean and agile while not over-committing themselves. L Marks has witnessed startups commit funds, talent and changing business plans to appease corporate clients that gave only verbal assurances of a contract.

see where the corporate fits into your startup’s roadmap

The startup should learn the needs of the corporate and see how they can mould these into their existing roadmap. An opportunity may come along to develop a new product and/or proposition with the corporates insight.

Where do you fit into the picture?

Startups should understand the corporate strategy and its business priorities. The corporate strategy may reveal some interesting focus areas for the business for the year ahead. Startups have the chance to sell themselves by feeding into these focus areas with propositions developed in the Innovation Lab.