Reimagine the corporate/startup relationship: 6 lessons we’ve learned

Having supported entrepreneurs worldwide for more than three years, Oracle’s Jason Williamson shares pivots and predictions from his experiences.

By Jason Williamson | November 2020

Reimagine the corporate/startup relationship: 6 lessons we’ve learned

Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, we live and work in a very different and challenged environment. All the more reason that big companies of all types need to build strong relationships with startups (and vice versa) to thrive in this fast-changing, increasingly virtual world.

I engage with thousands of entrepreneurs worldwide in my role as head of Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research. Having founded a cloud CRM company and held leadership positions at a number of large enterprises, including Oracle, I understand the unique perspectives of businesses of all sizes. More important, I see the potential for expansion and collaboration when startups and corporates work together. The entire Oracle for Startups team sees that as well.

Let me share six lessons we’ve learned about the startup/corporate relationship, drawn from our experiences on the front lines of developing and brokering these critical relationships.

1. Yes, we can succeed virtually.

When we started Oracle for Startups in 2017, we believed that our worldwide coworking facilities in startup hubs were a strong program benefit, but the data proved us wrong. In the aggregate, our facilities sat at about 20% occupancy. Although the startups in our program were engaged with us, they simply didn’t need us to provide that physical space. We also learned that providing those facilities limited our capacity to serve more than a handful of startups at a time.

During a pivotal meeting with Larry Ellison in early 2019, he advised us to shutter the physical centers and reinvest the savings in more valuable resources. He then suggested we offer startups a 70% discount on all cloud infrastructure and platform services for two years. The focus of our virtually managed program is to introduce the startups to our customers, assist them with technology migrations, provide marketing exposure, and manage a members-only online portal.

As Steve Case’s “Rise of the Rest” mantra underscores, great ideas and technological solutions can happen anywhere—not just in the traditional hotspots of San Francisco, London, and Tel Aviv—but also in cities, such as Amsterdam, Budapest, Riyadh, Singapore, and Sao Paulo.

When COVID-19 required us to fast-track our virtual strategy, we felt ahead of the curve.

2. First movers don’t always win.

Even in markets where technology and dynamics move and adapt at a lightning-fast pace, launching later than the first movers can have tremendous benefits. Patience can payoff.

Consider the web search sector, where Excite led the way in 1993, followed by Yahoo and Lycos in 1994. Google didn’t arrive until 1997. Or social networks: Friendster started in 2002, followed by MySpace in 2003, and then Facebook in 2004. Among electric car manufacturers, General Motors led in 1996 with the EV1. Tesla’s Roadster didn’t emerge until 12 years later.

Oracle wasn’t a first mover in cloud infrastructure. But as a smart follower, we have had the advantage of identifying and filling the gaps in first-generation clouds. Similarly, we may have arrived late to the startup acceleration party, but we arrived ready to help startups scale both their technology and their businesses, providing them with access to our customers, and opening up new business opportunities.

3. Big multinationals want innovative startup technology solutions, but . . .

They feel reassured when startups have the backing of a more established partner.

How Oracle supports startups around the globe

Oracle for Startups builds partnerships that are mutually beneficial for Oracle, its customers, and a range of technology startups worldwide. Without taking equity in startups, Oracle connects them with free cloud credits, startup-preferred pricing, and free migration support so they can experience the benefits of secure, stable Oracle Cloud Infrastructure.

Startups tap into a global network of expert mentors and explore opportunities to expand their visibility with analysts, media, and Oracle’s 430,000 customers.

The goal: Create a virtuous cycle of innovation by blending entrepreneurial ingenuity with enterprise resources.

For example, Hyreo, a startup out of India, developed a unique chatbot-based cloud application that combines conversational capabilities with data analytics to give corporate recruiters meaningful insights about job candidates and the candidate experience. When a prospective customer wanted more proof of its enterprise readiness, Hyreo turned to Oracle for Startups. Its partnership with Oracle, including its use of Oracle Cloud Infrastructure to power its application, opened enterprise doors for Hyreo including a deal with multinational financial services company Société Générale.

That’s just one of hundreds of examples of startups in our program that are engaging with our customers, such as Volvo, HSBC, Yamaha, and Daimler.

4. Startup/corporate coinnovation is advancing tech.

When startups integrate their technologies with those of more established vendors, it’s a classic win-win. Startup innovations enhance established vendors’ products, while the startups’ products get scale and exposure.

Here are three examples from our experience. Fintech startup Fairmarkit integrated its innovative procurement application, which automates and promotes competitive sourcing and bidding, with Oracle’s PeopleSoft. Snap Vision integrated its unique visual AI technology with Oracle CX Commerce. BotSupply is launching a new product built on Oracle Autonomous Database.

In the end, their customers win as well.

5. Startups want hands-on migration support.

Startups and developers are traditionally DIYers—they spin up new application workloads and go. As a builder myself, I get that. But what we’ve learned—especially during this pandemic—is that startups want help migrating their large and small production workloads to more secure, reliable, scalable, cost-effective, and elastic cloud infrastructures.

Whether your business has had to scale up to keep up with customer demand or scale down to weather the COVID-19 storm, elasticity is key to adapting and surviving.

Our program offers startups free assistance in migrating their workloads to Oracle Cloud Infrastructure, an offering that’s been in high demand since the start of the pandemic.

6. High-performance computing no longer is just for big companies and research labs.

Cloud-based high-performance computing (HPC) capacity is allowing even small startups to compete with established players in fields that require storage, processing, and analysis of massive amounts of data. Think biomedical research, video streaming, AI analysis, and advanced engineering. Data volumes are absolutely exploding. The global datasphere will grow from 35 zettabytes in 2020 to 175 zettabytes by 2025, according to IDC. That’s 1 sextillion bytes, or an incomprehensible 1 + 21 zeros. Consider that nearly 30% (and growing every year) of that data requires real-time processing, and you understand why startups are claiming their place at the HPC table.

The number of AI, machine learning, and big data companies enrolling in our Oracle for Startups program has grown more than 20% this year. Among them, AI and analytics startup Kinetica is tapping Oracle Cloud HPC capacity to analyze huge datasets, including drone data collected on the San Francisco Bay to combat pollution.

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Illustration: Oracle

Jason Williamson

Jason Williamson

Jason Williamson, a former startup founder, is vice president of Oracle for Startups and Oracle for Research.