The drumbeat to “disrupt or be disrupted” is often substantiated by the success of Uber and Airbnb; insinuating that your organization is under threat from digital startups. As the importance of the ecosystem grows, we see more opportunities for startups to help your business than to destroy it. Ridesharing apps threatened disruption for most of the transportation industry, but the Massachusetts Bay Transportation Authority (MBTA) instead took advantage of the influx of drivers and partnered with Uber and Lyft to improve its Ride service for disabled passengers.

However, the startup landscape is massive—with about 2,000 in Boston alone– and volatile—nearly 75% of venture-backed startups fail. For business and technology decision makers, navigating the startup landscape may feel more like a minefield.. In response to the complexity of the digital ecosystem, services firms like Accenture, Deloitte, and TCS have noted their role as a “strategic orchestrator”; playing the role of matchmaker and relationship coach between clients and their emerging companies network.

Particularly in hot or emerging areas like RPA, AI, and IoT, and cyber security, startups provide nascent capabilities and skill sets to co-ideate and build practical solutions. Here’s what you can do if you want to tap into network:

  • Attend a service provider meetup to meet your new startup partner– or acquisition. Services firms like Cognizant and EY host curated events for executive clients to interact with startups in a domain of interest. These small networking events allow clients to meet the companies who have created real use cases for emerging technologies- like blockchain to build relationships and potentially invest.
  • Demo and co-create solutions at digital studios. Digital studios are a melting pot for services firms’ cross-functional expertise and technology assets, and ecosystem partners. At recent digital studios openings and tours, I’ve gotten to meet some of the student interns and startup partners providers have brought in to share the space. Services buyers attending a digital studios engagement can use the opportunity to hands-on demo and potentially pull in solutions from emerging companies.
  • Host an innovation challenge through crowdsourcing or innovation platforms. Many of the service providers have internal platforms for monitoring and matching startups with clients– and some have given clients access to these resources. KPMG has leveraged its Innovation Factory crowdsourcing platform to help clients pose a challenge to the startup community and filter responses to identify the top ideas to continue investment.

If you’ve worked with a services partners’ startup partners, I’d love to hear from you.


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