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Startup-Corporation Collaboration: Case Konecranes & Robonomist

Startup-corporate collaborations have continued to grow, become more important and diverse. Also, many see the ongoing pandemic acting as an accelerator, boosting the speed at which new partnerships between startups and corporations are entered into. So what happens when a startup and corporation sit down for lunch at Maria 01 to discuss a potential joint project: do we witness the beginning of a new innovation, or is the assumption of a collaboration between two companies of different sizes, cultures, and strengths being nearly impossible proven to be true?

Startup-Corporation Collaboration: Case Konecranes & Robonomist

Maria 01 – Connecting startups and corporations

When Jussi Eskelinen, Manager, Digital Experience & Business Design at Konecranes, posed a room full of startup founders the question of whether anyone in here has struggled with kicking off a joint project with a larger corporation or landing a corporate customer, it didn’t take long for hands to rise. A sea of risen hands was also probably exactly what Jussi was expecting. I mean, getting two companies with completely different styles of working, to collaborate on a joint project where the benefits of the collaboration differ for each partner, does sound nearly impossible. However, bringing these fast-phased, tech-savvy startups together with experienced, well-connected corporations, is exactly what we here at Maria 01 do.

Konecranes has been part of the Maria 01 Community ever since 2017, systematically collaborating with startups, exploring new ways to co-create and find solutions disrupting the industry. During their time at Maria 01, Konecranes has already run several projects, providing proof of concept to the fact that mutually successful partnerships are possible. One of the most recent success stories we have witnessed is the partnership with the Maria 01 startup Robonomist.

Konecranes and Robonomist came in contact during the late fall of 2020. Konecranes was looking into starting a new project and quite quickly realized this involved a problem they didn’t yet have a solution to. “Although we have a house full of great data scientists, it usually makes sense to see whether someone else maybe already has a solution to the problem instead of spending time coming up with a similar solution yourself, so that’s exactly what we did” Jussi recalls. As Konecranes usually look for collaborating partners on a global level, it seemed almost too good to be true when Jussi and his colleagues scouted a Finnish startup solving the exact same problem they had at hand, and to top it all off, a startup that was part of the same community as they were. While the process of finding, getting in contact with, and initiating the first discussion with a potential partner can take months, this deal was sealed in a record-breaking time.

I opened Slack, which is the internal communications channels used here at Maria 01, searched for a person working for the startup Robonomist, and found Juha and Otto”.

Jussi Eskelin, Konecranes

After a few messages back and forth, the trio decided to meet for lunch at the campus, and roughly seven days later the contract was signed and in a couple of weeks, the two companies were already working together.

Aligning expectations is key

Robonomist, who produces scalable software robots to automate information-intensive work, sees the opportunity to enter into a partnership with a corporation like Konecranes as exactly one of the reasons why they joined the Maria 01 Community in the first place.

I think we’re really lucky to have found a partner that has so much experience in working with startups”.

Otto Laosmaa, Co-Founder at Robonomist.

Both Otto Laosmaa and Juha Itkonen, the startup’s other co-founder, noticed at the beginning of the project, that there was a certain protocol on how Konecranes collaborate with startups. Sticking to a protocol like this probably isn’t something that is part of everyday life in a startup and seemed a bit heavy at the beginning. As the collaboration proceeded, the team from Robonomist noticed that there was a logical reason for this and down the road, it did actually make the whole process a lot smoother.

So what was it then that made this collaboration so successful? Both Konecranes and Robonomist agree that aligning expectations is one of the hardest things when entering into a new project. But, also one of the most important. Both Juha and Otto have experienced troublesome cases where it’s been nearly impossible to manage the expectations of a customer. “With Konecranes, it was nice to see that this was something already built into the process, we didn’t have to spend any additional time on trying to meet in the middle, halfway down the road”, Juha recalls. “There’s always a lot of uncertainty when building new technology, you never know if there’s actually going to be a final product. With a lot of unavoidable uncertainty already in the process, unclear expectations is an avoidable uncertainty you don’t want to add into the mix”, Otto continues.

Key takeaways from previous projects

As the process of finding a partner and starting a joint project may not always be as smooth as the story we just heard, Konecranes has decided to gather the key takeaways from previous projects to guide startups and corporations entering into a new relationship. The Startup-Corporation Collaboration Guide written by Konecranes and Maria 01, will provide you with the most important building blocks to form a successful partnership, tips on where to put your focus when the resources are limited and best practices how to avoid some of the most common pitfalls.

Download the guide: Startup-Corporation Collaboration: From special projects to business as usual

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