While most entrepreneurs aim to make theirs a successful startup story, their lack of a third party to help them scale can make the task quite challenging.
Indeed, it can take years for a new business to develop its customer base and attain success.
Most startups fail precisely because they can't sustain their business growth. But this is by no means across the board: In recent years, successful startups have used strategic partnerships to overcome the business challenges they faced on multiple fronts, by teaming with larger companies sharing the same vision and target market.
Let’s explore four actions you should consider to develop strategic partnerships for your company.
1. Utilize online directories to find possible partners.
Uber is known for the strategic partnerships it developed right from the very beginning. Some of its notable partnerships have included GM and Toyota, Starwood Hotels, Carnegie Mellon, European cities, Google, Yellow Pages and Yumtable. These companies joined their resources with Uber's to provide synchronized services to their shared target audiences.
Startups could emulate Uber in particular, building partnerships by finding similar companies through Angel List. That platform can be used not only to find potential partners but to check up on competitors and hire employees.
2. Expand your own target audience by tapping the audiences of your suppliers.
Without necessarily branching out to a whole new business, Uber grew its market through its partnership with Starwood Hotels, which allowed ground-transportation passengers to earn hotel points.
In a similar way, startups in manufacturing, for example, might turn their own suppliers into partners, to benefit from a potentially larger volume of orders as well as fresh new ideas for their operations.
3. Change directions and take the unconventional route.
While it always makes sense to partner with companies in the same industry, Uber early on took the unconventional approach of partnering with an entity, Google, that is already preparing to becomes its competitor in the ride-hailing industry segment.
Now, if your mobile app development company doesn’t seem to be gaining traction, it might be worthwhile to check out how you and your leading competitors might help one other on a particular project. Disregarding your competitive relationship for the moment, you might find that such a collaboration will help you learn more about how best to differentiate your offerings through types of specialization other companies in your industry lack.
4. Don't overlook opportunities to share corporate responsibility and localization efforts.
When it’s hard to find partnerships, think about how Airbnb partnered with Nest to help save energy, Uber’s partnership with the National Association of the Deaf, meanwhile, helped the transportation company cater to the needs of the hearing-challenged.
Partnerships can be used to address certain local issues, as well, as when Uber partnered with Times Internet in India: Times was able to help the taxi-booking app’s localization and promotional efforts in that region.
Startups struggling to find partnerships in the events industry, as another example, might think about teaming with local nonprofit organizations that regularly host activities with a similar focus; both could tap into one other’s audiences.
In the end, it’s always the first few stages of a business where companies struggle to either make or break it. However, the hurdles and risks can be minimized when they are shared with strategic partners.
Certainly, the competition is stiff. But if you look beyond the expected prospects, you just might find partnership opportunities you'd never imagined.