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Five tips to ensure your first meeting with a start-up is successful

Rose Lewis

I mentioned last month how start-ups can help you and your brand embrace innovation and work smarter. Creating a mutually beneficial relationship is another matter. So here are some tips on how to make the most of your first brand start-up meeting and build a long-term relationship.

1. Do your research beforehand

Just as the start-up founders will be doing in-depth research on you and your brand, you must do the same. If they’ve sent you a deck, read it before the meeting! If the deck is longer than 10 slides, read the first few to know who they are and what they do before the meeting.

And if there are start-ups reading this: keep your presentation short. A maximum of 10 slides will suffice, and make sure it highlights that particular brand’s pain-point. This is turn makes it easier for the brand team to understand your solution.

2. Let the start-up founders start off

Get started with them asking the initial questions – this way the dialogue is open and the conversation will flow in both directions. We teach all of our Collider start-ups to begin the meetings this way in order to better understand you and your challenges.

These questions help the start-ups validate whether they are indeed solving the problems they think they are. Even if at first you wonder where this is going, the pieces will come together in the end. You’ll both walk away knowing if it is valuable to move forward with a contract.

3. Don't ask for a demo upfront

We all love shiny new things, but if you let the founders demo their products for you straight off, you’ll be developing an opinion and feeding that information back to them. In turn, the founders walk away with a false set of data – that you really liked their shiny new idea. This does not add much value.

What a start-up needs to know is that they are indeed solving a real problem you currently have; that it is something that you care about solving and that you will take action after seeing their solution.

4. Be open and honest with your feedback

If you don’t think the start-up has clearly articulated their value proposition, tell them. This is priceless feedback to any founder as they have a tendency to think the pitch is perfect, when it isn’t.

It could be that the problem they’re solving isn’t that big, or it doesn’t work for your department. If you don’t believe the start-ups are solving a problem, or you don’t have this problem, be honest.

5. Be clear about the future now

Be clear on what everyone has to do and what your timeline is at the end of the meeting. If nothing can happen until six months from now, keep the founders in the loop so they at least can plan accordingly. And if you’re not interested in working with them that’s fine, just tell them!

Time is the most valuable asset to any early stage company. There are no spare resources to invest in time-wasters. If you haven’t decided to move forward within a week of the first start-up meeting, you risk forgetting who they are and why you’d met.

Brands and agencies have the luxury of being forgetful – start-ups do not. Keeping this in mind, manage everyone’s expectations.

Rose Lewis is founder of the start-up accelerator Collider

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