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4 Tips On Scouting Startups in China

4 min read

Corporate and startup partnerships are a hot trend this year, however not everybody knows how to get a partnership started. Corporates often find it hard to scout for the best startups to work with and get the best partnership results; this is particularly true in China where Corporate/Startup partnerships are just taking off. This article lists 4 tips that every corporate should consider when scouting for the startup for a partnership.

1. Referrals and Networking

Whilst in other parts of the world scouting for startups is as easy as going to your local pitching event, in China scouting revolves heavily around referrals and networking. Building on the age-old concept of “guanxi”, it’s important to rely on personal connections in order to better explore the local ecosystem and find the best startups to partner with.

These personal connections are important in the Chinese ecosystem as it increases the level of trust between you and the startup you scout. Scouting for startups through referrals and personal networks is also helpful as local players may be able to find startups that are more suitable to your corporate needs.

2. Addressing Mutual Needs and Expectations

One of the first and most important steps when scouting for a Chinese startup is establishing mutual and different needs and catering to these. Both sides should cater to the needs of the other and be willing to do things differently in order to make the partnership harmonious. This is especially important when working with a Chinese startup if you are a foreign (or partly foreign) business. The differences in work culture between a corporate and startup, as well as differences in cultural background may make concepts and communication difficult and the needs of each partner may not be satisfied; so it’s important that you make sure everyone is on the same page.

Additionally it’s important that everyone has the same expectations when working together. In the eyes of a startup, a corporate may be slow to act due to the company’s strict hierarchy. On the other hand, a startup may require more freedom to experiment than a corporation is used to. Both partners should establish a set of needs and expectations that are mutually agreeable and somewhat flexible so that neither is left in the dark and the pace of movement is practical. Outlining realistic and achievable expectations also streamlines the progress of the partnership helps maintain motivation.

3. Establish Common Objectives

Although there are no clear differences between working with a Chinese and non-Chinese startup, the important thing when partnering up with a startup is to create a plan with clear objectives. These objectives need to be clear and attainable for all parties; don’t over estimate yourself or the other party. The methodology that is required to achieve that objective should also be flexible considering the different pace of work that both corporates and startups have. A good tip to maintaining common objectives is to establish small but attainable milestones along the way so that everyone can see the stages of progress. This also means that the path to the finished product seems easier to reach and both parties don’t get sidetracked.

Regular meetings are also a must-have as they keep everybody updated on progress and any issues faced. This way everybody can be encouraged by new developments or adapt to and tackle challenges together, making the partnership stronger and the end goal more easy to reach.

4. Expecting Challenges That Can Stand in the Way

It goes without saying that there are tonne of challenges that a partnership can face. We’ve listed some of the more common ones below so you can prepare to face them:

  • Cultural Differences: Apart from the obvious differences in work culture, cultural barriers can create distrust and a lack of communication, especially amongst Chinese startups where good business partnerships stem from close personal relations
  • Decision-making: Corporates may be slow throughout the decision-making process whilst start-ups crave nimbleness and fast resolutions; patience and understanding are two must-have virtues.
  • Risk-taking: Startups are known to be more risk hungry than their corporate counterparts and so working together becomes a challenge of compromise. With clear objectives, risks can be avoided or mitigated in a healthy partnership.
  • Motivation: Somewhere along the way, whether it is because of a lack of effort or simply because the circumstances are difficult both parties may lose motivation to continue on. In this case it’s important to review the value of the partnership an recalibrate the objectives.
  • If it’s just not working: If the partnership is just not working after many attempts it’s important to know when to walk away amicably. Although this is undesirable, it’s important to depart on good terms and maintain open communication throughout.

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