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How our Scouts find the BEST startup talent

At L Marks, we are dedicated to bridging the gap between the startup and corporate world, and our Scouts play a crucial role in doing this. So, we headed behind the scenes to talk to Mina and Ellie to learn more about their day-to-day…

So tell us, who are you currently scouting for?

Mina: Currently I am scouting for Nexus by DIA, a Spanish multinational company specialising in the distribution of food, household & personal care products, operating in Spain, Latin America and China. We are looking for startups with innovative ideas to shape the future of retail. It’s a great opportunity for a startup looking to gain access to new markets!

Ellie: I am scouting for BreakThru from Travis Perkins, the UK’s biggest supplier of building materials. We are looking for startups that can help improve the services they offer their customers, while also challenging them internally. I’m excited about this one as teams will have access to so many great brands like Wickes.

*TIP: For more information about either of these programmes, see details below!

What do you think corporates can gain from working with startups?

Mina: Corporates know there is technology out there and new business models that could benefit them. However, going to an agency to get a new tool or solution built from scratch means they would be fully responsible for its success or failure, as well as shouldering all of the cost. Collaborating with startups can be less individually risky for the corporate, more cost effective and give them competitive edge through early access to new products or solutions.

Also startups bring a more agile, new way of working, you hear so many stories of startups failing, but what do they do? Learn from it and start over again. So it’s not just about finding solutions to their business challenges, it’s also about bringing that entrepreneurship in house and encourage the internal staff to think differently and find ways to progress and meet the demands of their customers.

Ellie: Most people say “to innovate” or “stay ahead of the curve” or “maintain their current position as a market leader”. However, I think the most important thing is acquiring the mentality or the way of thinking that startups have, like a more open and collaborative approach to problem solving.

What three questions do you ask yourself when reviewing a startup?

Mina: “Does this startup solve a real business challenge?” It’s so important for teams to be building a solution to a real pain point, otherwise there will be no real demand for their product. “What traction has this company received since inception?” This doesn’t affect how likely someone is to get onto a programme as we work with teams at any stage of development. However, it does help us understand what they’d like to get out of the programme. And, “What is the team like? And, more importantly, can we work with this team?” We’re thinking about the corporate’s team as well as our own. So much about ongoing commercial relationships is dependent on people being able to work together. You might not be aware, but a poor interaction can affect a decision about who to bring onto the programme – no matter how good your product is!

Ellie: “Do the founding team have a clear drive and passion for what they do?” It will be very hard for them to sustain the business without this, and having a passion for what you’re doing will help you to make the product better and better. “What are their objectives for the programme?” It’s great to hear that someone has a clear reason for wanting to join the programme and has put some thought into how they will achieve their goals. People join our programmes for many reasons, but the one I hear most is for the teams to gain an insider view on an industry to improve their product offering. And,”Do they know the market they’re building for?” If someone has shown that they have previous experience working in the sector, or can demonstrate strong knowledge of the industry, this can help us put forward their application as a strong candidate for the programme.

Oh – and one tip, make sure you know who your competitors are! Too often I see people say “we are unique in the market”, while our partner can name five fairly similar products or businesses – it just makes it seem you don’t know the market you’re in.

Where do you scout for talent?

Ellie: All sorts! Events, referrals from the startup community and investors, research from press and publications – we have a tracker of over 7,000+ startups we’ve heard about and are interested in, so don’t be surprised if we reach out to your company via email first!

Mina: There are a few different ways we scout for companies, but I prefer meeting people at startup events where you can chat over a beer. It’s the best way for people to show me how much they love what they do.

How can startups make themselves most attractive to corporates and the L Marks team?

Mina: It sounds obvious, but talk about your product with passion. We can be advocates on your behalf, so convince us! Get us to understand the change you want to make. It is also good to know how you want to develop your product and business model on the programme, and how you’d like to work with the corporate partner. Remember that corporates can be a low-risk environment, so clearly articulating the benefits of your product (or what your hypotheses are at the moment) can really help your application standout.

Ellie: In my opinion, the best thing a startup can do is tell me why they want to join the programme, and why in particular they want to work with that corporate (it helps to do a little bit of research). If they can show they’ve thought about what they want to work on and how the programme can take their business to the next level, our partner can really understand whether they can offer what they’re looking for.

In your view, when is the right time for a startup to seek mentorship and investment? 

Ellie: We are open to receiving applications from startups at any stage! However, we are best equipped to help startups at an MVP (minimum viable product) stage or startups that have a team and product that they would like to test with a large partner in order to refine it and prepare it for market.

Mina: For investment, I guess it’s important to remember that there’s no right or wrong answer. Think about the stage you’re at and what help you need. Where has your investment come from so far? Can you fund growth from revenue or personal funds? What traction have you had for your business? Companies shouldn’t seek investment out of desperation and should have a plan for growth before approaching investors.

We hope this insight into what our scouts look for has been useful. If you have any questions tweet us @LMarks or if you feel you fit what Mina and Ellie are looking for, email them:

As Mina and Ellie mentioned we are currently taking applications for the following programmes:

  • The Travis Perkins #BreakThru programme is your opportunity to work with the UK’s largest supplier of building materials through an 11-week collaboration. Startups that apply will have the chance to pitch for a place on the programme and, if successful, they will have the opportunity to validate their product or solution at scale. There’s also potential investment opportunities and an ongoing relationship with Travis Perkins after the programme finishes. Apply now:
  • The leading food retail multinational DIA is opening its doors to startups giving early-stage companies a chance to accelerate their speed to market. The programme offers selected startups the chance to work with DIA’s team during 10 weeks in their head offices in Madrid in order to test their solutions in a live store environment, scale their business and receive close mentor support from DIA’s senior stakeholders as well as those from the wider retail sector. More information and click here to apply: