10 Ways for Tech Startup Founders to Build Strong Partnerships

A practical, common sense approach to forging business alliances

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As part of a press tour throughout Germany to get acquainted with the tech startup scene there, a meeting with executives from a private bank yielded great advice on partnerships—advice useful to any tech startup founder.

Sutor Bank, established in 1921, is going through changes as are many older businesses—attempting to embrace tech and the startup culture to offer better services and products for its loyal customers and to attract new ones.

The bank’s executives have entered into a partnership with Deposit Solutions GmBH to offer a digital investment service called ZinsPilot.

While Sutor is looking to add more services and become more digitalized, Torsten Hahn, CTO, and Hartmut Giesen, business development manager, said that the ultimate goal of the partnership was to create “symbiosis versus disruption.”

The gentlemen from Sutor Bank and Deposit Solutions’ chief business officer and managing director, Max von Bismarck, offered great advice on how they forged a successful partnership. This advice is not only for those in the finance industry but is valuable for any tech startups forming partnerships:

  • Make sure your partners have concrete plans. “Some partners only come with ideas,” cautioned Giesen.
  • Come to fair agreements about sharing revenues and costs.
  • Establish clear agreements about ownership. If a partner integrates its technology into your platform, for example, does that technology become exclusive to your company, or are they free to offer the tech to others? Get everything in writing.
  • Outline and define projects. This is critical before implementing and deploying new or joint solutions.
  • Aim for speed at every stage of the project.
  • Maintain patience on both sides (the partner and the startup).
  • Provide partners direct and early access to all decision makers.
  • Project leaders on both sides should coordinate.
  • Both parties should make a commitment to continuous process development and optimization.
  • Establish a commitment and capability to scale and grow.