Best practices: Scaling your startup

By Editor April 30, 2015

As Unilever Foundry and Lions Innovation launch a global search for the World’s top 50 marketing technology startups – The Foundry 50, head of Unilever Foundry, Jeremy Basset, discusses what early stage startups need to do to make sure they’re ready to scaleup.

There are plenty of big brands who realise the possibilities that arise from working with startups. We know that Unilever is not the only company to be excited about the opportunities, innovation and creativity that startups can bring to big corporations – but we also know we’re different. Through Unilever Foundry, we’re putting startups at the heart of our innovation process, enabling startups to pitch, pilot and partner with our billion euro brands. In the last 10 months, we’ve launched pilots with over 60 different companies and we’re now rapidly scaling many of those partnerships globally.

Although we’re now partnering with a large number of startups, we’ve actually received over 3000 applications – so the ratio of companies who progress to a pilot is quite low. We focus our attention on what we consider to be scaleups – startup businesses that have gone through multiple iterations and now ready to deploy their tech at scale.

Here are five tips for early stage startups seeking to scaleup with corporates:

1. Product robustness

Make sure you’re really clear on what your product proposition is. Total clarity and belief in the direction you want to take your product will stop other agencies and brands from influencing the direction of your product, which may benefit their own immediate needs but may not be the right thing for your startup long term.

2. Technical robustness

When it comes to innovation, brands are prepared to take a leap of faith but the underlying tech has to be robust. Start your own pilots early so that when it comes to piloting with larger brands you have a product that’s ready to scaleup.

3. Get ready to tell your story

Partners will want you to be able to tell your story as well as they tell theirs. The best startup stories I’ve heard have been presented succinctly in 2 minutes. Be ready to articulate what problem your solving, why you’re solving it and who you’re solving it for.

4. Start collecting data

Brands will always want to see evidence proving your product works and not just technically. They’ll want to see the numbers and real world stats from pilots and focus groups, user engagement, sales uplift or brand impressions – so start collecting now.

5. Be ready to collaborate

Being ready to collaborate means being open to advice and criticism without losing the integrity or your mission. Remember, you’re working together towards a solution that neither party could achieve on their own. Collaboration isn’t always easy, but it is truly transformative.

Unilever Foundry has partnered with Lions Innovation to launch “Foundry 50 at Cannes” – a search for the world’s top 50 marketing technology startups that are innovating to help brands better connect, engage, and relate with people; so if you think your startup is ready to scaleup, we want to here from you.

How to enter your business into Foundry 50 at Cannes:

Startups can apply at Entries will close at 23:59 GMT, 30 April 2015. The final Foundry 50 will be revealed on Monday 25 May 2015.