Corporates and Startups: the importance of the ecosystem in establishing a linked network of shared knowledge

On Friday the 29th of January, the follow-up of the How To Get There Summit took place at Brightlands, Chemelot Campus in Geleen. Purpose of this meet-up was to further delve into the subject corporates and startups; in what ways is the cooperation between the two depending on local and regional hubs? What role is reserved for the ecosystem? Moreover, Director of StartupDelta Sigrid Johannisse pointed out that regional hubs are crucial in this process since they may have an important filter function to organize contact between corporates and startups at just the right time.

The session takes off with speaker Prof. Dr. Justin Jansen of the Erasmus University Rotterdam-School of Management. He has done extensive research in the field of startups and fast-growing companies and sees increased cooperation between startups and corporates as an inevitable future prospect. During the How to Get There Summit in November 2015, necessary steps that need to be made by startups and corporates to realize this future prospect were elaborately discussed. One of the outcomes was the call for a Chief Startup Officer who is accountable for the startup policy within the organization.

During the Brightlands session, however, the central theme was what role should the hubs in the ecosystem have? Hubs can link various networks and knowledge within the ecosystem. They are the ones who can map which startups are where. Prof. Jansen concluded that a specialization of hubs offers acceleration and effectiveness in the startup ecosystem. “Further professionalization and specialization among hubs could bring startups and corporates closer together,” said Prof. Jansen.

The second speaker Herman Wories representing the Global Business Incubator DSM, mentioned that currently 80% of DSM’s employees work outside of the Netherlands. Innovation is a central theme within that strategy since open innovation leads to awareness of rich ecosystems around us from which knowledge can be obtained. Knowledge that we otherwise would have missed out on. Wories emphasizes that even DSM is depending on others for knowledge and hopes to fight the ‘Not Invented Here Syndrom’ since sharing knowledge leads to innovation.

On that note the last speaker Corina Kuiper from Corporate Venture Network Nederland (CVNN) mentioned that the innovation hubs are the ones who should create a dimensional  playground. A network with all the stakeholders must be set up including a sector-specific approach which offers instruments for startups of all ages (from startup to scale up). Kuiper states that where we first only talked about corporate venturing, we are now talking about co-creating an ecosystem. “THE startup does not exist and THE corporate does not exist, they all work together in an ecosystem.’

After these three speakers the break-out session with the various hubs began. The topic of specialization appeared to be a recurring one. The vision of one single hub with regional hubs specialized in specific verticals would be the ideal situation for attracting startups and corporates from the Netherlands and abroad. Foreign startups with a specific specialism could then be assigned to the most fitting hub. The argument of sharing knowledge was also wholeheartedly agreed upon by the hubs. This is culturally something we need to learn, allow each other to learn and grow from shared knowledge and cooperation.

Thus, by strengthening the ecosystem more collaboration and a joint regional and national proposition can be established. The presentation of one single hub in concurrency with regional specialization is the future vision. It is  upon the regional hubs to come with ideas how to shape this process and take their role in the collaboration between startups and corporates.