Mia Bennett From PwC on Building Partnerships With Startups [Podcast]

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This is episode #09 of the Fliplet podcast! This week we were honored to be joined by Mia Bennett, Head of Alliances and Special Projects at PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC).

Who is Mia Bennett?

Before joining PwC, Mia built up a wealth of knowledge through technology and international consulting roles before starting her own mobile development agency.

She grew her business to London, Manchester and Tehran (where she is originally from) and then joined PwC to set up the emerging technologies team there. She advises the board on disruptive tech and looks at forming partnerships between the firm and innovative startups.

Can startups benefit from partnerships with larger companies?

Mia says she’s always taken an open-minded approach to startups and how large companies can work with them. She believes that when startups partner with large companies, the startup scales more effectively and the large company learns how to innovate in the right areas.

Advice for startups wanting to work with PwC (or other large companies)

For Mia, any startup needs to pitch the right story, highlighting where the startup and PwC can actually connect. It’s important to consider:

  • What you’re offering
  • What you want and can get out of a partnership with a large organization
  • What does the perfect partnership practically and commercially look like?

Although you might have a cutting edge solution it might not be appropriate for a large organization like PwC to align themselves with your business.

Another thing that Mia stressed was the timeframes involved when working with an organization like PwC – things can move very slowly. There is a lot to discuss and finalise before the project can actually begin.

What steps are involved in setting up a large company + startup partnership?

Mia outlines that it’s important to take a practical perspective, but there are a number of boxes that have to be ticked, and steps that have to be taken over a series of meetings.

  1. Initial meetings to understand the startup and the founders
  2. Identifying the perfect use case
  3. Begin the admin process – diligence, compliance and limitation checks
  4. IT compliance – data checks, risk analysis
  5. Commercial discussion – often something that is overlooked by small startups
  6. Terms signed-off
  7. Start outlining projects

These initial steps can take 8-9 months depending on the schedules of the stakeholders involved – this timeframe is lengthy, so it helps to have patience and persistence.

Should your startup seek partnerships?

Mia pointed out that although it’s good for an early-stage startup to build relationships and connections, it may not be feasible for them to pursue a partnership with a large organization like PwC, initially.

There are often other options for startups, such as corporate incubators – which offer a programme for early-stage startups from a purely advisory role, rather than a partnership path.

What’s the difference between a partnership and a vendor/supplier?

According to Mia, the key difference between a partnership and a vendor or supplier is that in the case of startups, they are constantly evolving, and they don’t essentially have a product or service finalised that they’re selling.

It’s in the best interest of PwC, as a partner, to help the startup be as successful as possible over the long-term, rather than pursue short-term gain.

The whole objective behind partnerships formed by Mia and PwC is to work together with startups to reach the best possible solution.

What to consider before reaching out for partnerships

Mia closed the podcast by outlining what a startup should consider before approaching PwC:

  • Can you solve a problem for PwC?
  • Can you solve a problem for a big client of PwC?
  • Can you create a new market with PwC?

Don’t forget to check out the full podcast where Mia discussed the above topics at length, going into fascinating detail on how startups can approach a large organization like PwC.

Do you run a startup? Have you attempted to work with large organizations like PwC? How do you approach companies when you’re trying to build relationships?

You can get in touch with Mia on Twitter @mialomo and on LinkedIn. She runs an open office on Thursdays where she loves meeting new startups, people and opportunities.