How to buy or sell innovation services

One of the key problems of corporate innovation is that, despite all the information floating over the web and the products and services available, no one actually teaches you, the corporate buyer, how to buy these products or services or how to collaborate with innovation providers.

Practically this means, that an organization has to learn lessons the hard way by making decisions that will be recounted somewhere down the line, thus making it harder to tell difference between vegetable oil and rocket fuel.

I’ve sat on both sides of the table, both as a corporate buyer in my 15+ year’s stint in financial services and now as an innovation consultant. And the key takeaway message from 20+ years, is that Corporates aren’t clear about what they want because they usually do not know, startups and  services providers assume they know what a Corporate Buyer needs and everyone  in the end is frustrated with limited / or none P&L impact.

On the corporate side, when we first explored venturing and interactions with the local GR startup ecosystem, back in 2012.  I reached out to every innovation provider I could find in the EU and a couple on the other side of the pond. I reached out to other Corporates that had implemented some sort of innovation projects and asked to share their insights and for recommendations. The results of this endeavor were a real mix of prices, methodologies and offerings, none of which I could measure or compare and contrast between them.

During this process I realized that innovation providers don’t really communicate with each other or have any consistency in the use of terminology or language. This leads to a variety of offerings all of which are coined as innovation but actually are totally different things. It’s safe to say I wasted a lot of my own and my team’s time in trying to figure out who does what and how and why.

If this was confusing for me as a Corporate Buyer, it must have been even more frustrating for the sellers, since we had no idea what we wanted and had to spend a lot of time researching to find out what was out there and how would that fit our needs.

So for both buyers and seller, be cautious before going all in with a potential collaboration and focus on generating revenue together or securing an investment as quickly as possible.  If no one is interested in any of the above then take it as a red flag, probably it’s a marketing exercise with no real infrastructure in place to create an impact and huge waste of time and effort.

We need to cut the small talk and start getting better at making real honest conversations from where we currently stand to where we want to be in the future. Both buyers and sellers need to get better and faster at talking to each other and better understanding each other’s want and needs.

The first conversation you have is your opportunity to calibrate a possible collaboration and work out if you’re both aligned, so be honest about what you want to get out of the process. Misaligned expectations lead to botched deals and botched deals are lose-lose for both sides.

Want to learn more on how-to-do, drop us an email and we will be happy to share our knowledge and insights with you!


Christos Lytras – Managing Partner

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