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How to Maximise the Power of Startup Programs

Matchmaking and connecting startups with larger corporations are at the core of what we here at Maria 01 do. In recent years we’ve seen both the number, and the importance of these collaborations grow, and result in new innovative projects. We’ve even witnessed quite a few within our Community.

It’s quite easy to see why corporate-startup partnerships make sense: startups benefit from additional resources, funding, and potential new customers, while corporations can get access to new, disrupting technology and a foot into the innovative startup ecosystem. However, while working with over 20 larger corporate partners, we’ve found the above-mentioned things not to be the only reasons corporations seek to offer their expertise and resources to startups – it’s also about giving back to the community.

How to Maximise the Power of Startup Programs

Maria 01 announces partnership with Arrow and Microsoft to support startups and scaleups on their growth

At the beginning of the year, Maria 01 launched a partnership with Arrow, which together with Microsoft, offers SaaS companies the support and technology that enables you to build, run and scale your business. With this new partnership, we are strengthening our startup services, by adding yet another Startup Program to the service portfolio for our members.

Startup Programs are usually run by larger corporations, or startups turned into unicorns like our partners Aiven or HubSpot, who aim to support startups to scale and grow their business using the corporates’ technology. Through our network of partners, we’ve come to learn that for larger companies to now have the opportunity to give back to the community, after once having been a struggling startup themselves, and a sense of shared responsibility to help startups succeed and bring their expertise and ideas out into the world, seem to play a bigger role in the existence of these Startup Programs than we maybe thought.

“There’s a huge amount of knowledge and new ideas within Finnish software startups. As tech innovations are the foundation of the Microsoft ecosystem, we want to help Finnish startups take their businesses to the next level and offer the help they need to conquer the world”

Mika Hämäläinen, Customer Program Manager at Microsoft

With such a vast range of Startup Programs out there, how do you then as a startup find the right one for your business and make the most of it? We invited the experts from Arrow and Microsoft over for breakfast and a Q&A session at the Maria 01 Campus: here is what we learned.

Scaling your business at an unimaginable speed

Arrow’s enterprise computing solutions business guides the development of powerful, practical, and complete IT solutions by combining technologies to address specific business needs. One of Arrow’s key strategic partners is Microsoft, which enables digital transformation for the era of an intelligent cloud and an intelligent edge, providing startups with one of the most trusted and comprehensive cloud solutions. Together, they identified ways in which they can help scale market-ready solutions, integrate services into marketplaces while coaching and supporting you to hit the next milestone on your journey, and so the two Startup Programs, Microsoft for Startups Founders Hub and Arrow Cloud Innovation Factory, were born.

Cuckoo, a gamified wellbeing app offering remote workers all over the world a break in their workday, is one of many companies that were forced to look over their offering when the pandemic hit. They quite quickly realised, that they needed to bring their service to where people are spending most of their time in this new way of working – online meeting platforms. Being Microsoft Teams users themselves, they started to investigate the possibility of bringing Cuckoo into Teams, and funnily enough, the team from Microsoft was on the lookout for something similar.

“They had implemented a similar integration with a startup from the US and were now looking for something similar for their European customers. We got together and realised there was a perfect match” says Anni Havas, Partnerships and Wellbeing at Cuckoo. The idea was initiated in the fall of 2020, and in March 2021 you could already find Cuckoo in the Teams store.

Another startup realising the potential of Startup Programs is Simplified Solutions which has been working with Arrow pretty much right from the start of their journey. Both Cuckoo and Simplified Solutions agree on the fact that these programs have opened doors and helped them scale their businesses at a speed, which wouldn’t have been possible on their own. With additional resources at hand, both startups have also been able to develop their services further and add features to their applications that couldn’t have been implemented solely internally.

“Of course, it’s also quite impressive and a real confidence booster for your brand to be able to say that you’re collaborating with Microsoft and have an integration with Teams”

Anni Havas, Partnerships and Wellbeing at Cuckoo

Be proactive and find your perfect match

So how do you then find a Startup Program that fits your needs, and how easy is it actually to get accepted into one? If you’re part of a startup community like Maria 01, you have access to exclusive deals and programs provided by our partners, in other cases, googling will probably do the job. Entering into a partnership with a larger corporation can at times be quite a lengthy and heavy process, especially for startup founders who are used to a fast-paced environment. Startup Programs can serve as an easier way into a collaboration and as the start of a joint project. “We know we’re not a startup ourselves, but we understand the way startups work. We strive to be equally agile, and partnering with us shouldn’t be hard and time-consuming” says Niklas Kurki, Field Associate at Arrow. Inari Bergius, Partner Development Manager at Microsoft agrees, but at the same time wants to remind founders that there are some processes along the way, but with the best interest in mind.

It is also our job to help the startup provide the best possible service and experience to its customers through our platform,” says Inari. Microsoft’s validation team makes sure to go through all services and applications any startup, for example, would like to provide through their marketplace Azure. The team looks at the entire process from the perspective of a person who has never interacted with the service before, giving feedback on everything that does not make sense. “I bet this sometimes is the most annoying part of the process, thinking you’re ready to push the button, and then receiving feedback from our team, but we want to help you provide the best possible experience” Inari continues.

Both our experts from Arrow and Microsoft, as well as Anni from Cuckoo and Juhani Aro from Simplified Solutions, recommend actively reaching out to corporations to hear more about the opportunities they offer. There might already be an existing use case waiting to come to life through one of these Startup Programs out there.

To find out more about how Arrow and Microsoft together can help your startup succeed, book a Business Planning Session, and to learn more about Microsoft for Startups Founder Hub, head over to their website here.

Arrow: Niklas Kurki, niklas.kurki[@]arrow.com, +358 40 5003753
Microsoft: Mika Hämäläinen, mikaha[@]microsoft.com, +358 50 463 5266

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