In the world’s current state of affairs, how do you begin working with a large corporation? Traditional means of outreach are not happening right now. Conferences, trade show floors, and industry meetups can’t exactly ‘work’ right now. But investment and innovation aren’t waiting for the vaccine. Many corporations are using this time to reinvest in their innovation efforts, and studios are a great antidote in finding new approaches. Thus it’s a great time to engage them. Right now, roadmaps, hypotheses, problem statements, and—most importantly—budgets and partnerships are being set. The best forms of outreach—both passive and active—will demonstrate the studios’ unique value proposition.

Who to Target

Everyone is being asked to innovate within their roles, but it’s essential to find the right person that can either decide to engage or help build the needed relationships. That could be an executive innovation leader, the CMO, or the individual tasked with digital transformation.

Tip: Be relentless, engage all of them, and insist on meeting C-level executives along the way—as early in the relationship as possible—who will ultimately make the decision to move from consulting project to building something—preferably a joint venture!

Find Out What They’re Looking For

Each transformation leader will have a unique set of problems that they’re trying to solve for. Maybe they’re trying to build exciting companies, and they know they need to find domain expertise. They may be looking for other companies or startups to partner with, and are looking for new avenues to those introductions. Some are just trying to move the needle, and they need help moving to horizon two on the innovation scale.


  1. Do your homework, find out which sectors are their priorities.
  2. Invest in high-level tech scouting efforts if you aren’t familiar with those sectors.
  3. Be a thought leader and someone in the know, a resource they want to turn to who has a pulse on ‘what’s next?’

What to Show Them

In order to explore solutions and create a foundation for a corporate/studio relationship, low-cost but tangible engagements let both sides discover how a future venture could proceed. These can include:

  • Tech Scouting
  • Showcases
  • Validation Sessions

Tip: The studio should run these engagements in consultation with the corporate stakeholder. The pricing should reflect the costs of getting the job done with the hopes of more extensive engagements later. Put another way: Show value but don’t lose money.

A warning: It’s easy to become a consultant. That’s not what you’re trying to do here. Each “first step” engagement should have a clear “next step.” While there’s no obligation to continue working together, be clear that the goal is to move forward—by building a company together.

The Next Step

At the end of the day, studios are meant to build startups. Corporate partnerships offer an excellent opportunity to work with established industry expertise to get these ventures off the ground.

After demonstrating value with that first (or second) engagement, take those initial findings and identify your partner’s appetite for starting a more defined, ongoing relationship. This process can iterative. It requires in-depth discussions around the problems that they’re trying to solve near-term and longer-term. It could be identifying their next growth engine, what will be getting them to their next $100+ million line of business.  

Or it could be a bunch of things that they’re working on: enabling the business to be digitized, make the customer experience better, or allows them to partner easier. The studio’s goal is to find the enabling solution for their problem, and for some of the more progressive corporations, a disruptive solution.

Once you’ve identified a possible solution, this is the studio’s opportunity to start down the path of validating, prototyping, and identifying the studio team members to get the idea to a minimal viable product (MVP).

Another warning: Don’t move too far too fast. Launching something that requires a lot of capital, a lot of resources, or challenges the status quo can be very difficult. In these situations, C-level or board-level engagement is critical to moving projects forward. 

There is no ‘cookie-cutter’ methodology or recipe to foster these relationships; it’s all the little things (initial engagements, proof points, relationships and access, thought leadership, demonstrated success) that add up to having the credibility to move a big project forward.