When a tech start-up cold pitches their offering for partnership with a big company "the working assumption will be that this lead has no value," according to NBC Universal iVillage CTO Tammy Hepps. The New York City MySQL Group hosted Hepps at the Sun Microsystems offices in Midtown Manhattan, where she outlined how a technology startup can overcome this barrier and be taken seriously by a big corporation.
The first step Hepps presented was to take advantage of your connections. Play up other partnerships or the previous experience of your employees. Reference well known awards or previous press coverage. The herd mentality applies to big business; if other people like you, let it be known.
"Beyond tricking the big company into liking you because other people like you, you're going to need a solid business plan," said Hepps. Outline how your start-up operates and quantify how it will improve business for the big company. If it is not yet operating, you may not be ready to talk about a partnership.
Hepps also advised tech startups to be able to explain their technology well, saying, "why would I buy it from you when I could build it myself?" Understand the limitations and strengths of the company you pitch and be honest about your own challenges. It is better to say that the partnership will require you to hire additional developers, and build time for that into a plan, than to not deliver on your promises.
More specifically, Hepps advised beginning contact with a big company via an email to someone in business development. She suggested a "succinct pitch with a clear opportunity tied to a company need and just the highlights of your background." If there is no reply, wait two weeks and follow up with a phone call. If again there is no reply or the response is not favorable, wait six months or until you have something new to say. "If you get a categorical no, focus your energies elsewhere," advised Hepps.