Corporate-startup collaboration from KPN's point of view:

"We simply can't manage all by ourselves"

“Technological innovation is happening at such an intense speed that KPN simply can’t manage all by itself,” according to Marie-José Van den Boomgaard, “If we want to stay relevant, we need new business models, new technologies, and an altogether new mindset. That’s why we work with an open innovation mindset.”

Forging connections

In her capacity as liaison manager at KPN, she forges connections between KPN and the startup ecosystem. In doing so, she hopes to speed up the company’s innovation processes and create win-win situations. “Beautiful innovations have come into existence thus far,” Van den Boomgaard emphasizes, “while optimally taking into account the assets and interest of both parties involved”.

“At KPN, we firmly believe that we can achieve our ambitions more quickly and efficiently when we collaborate with young, talented technology startups,” she stresses. “By joining hands, we are able to accelerate the development of ideas, products and applications. This can truly help us to move forward. Alternatively, as a corporate, we have a strong brand, a lot of expertise and a steady customer base that is useful to startups.”

“When both parties are open and transparent, you will cultivate a sense of partnership that may lift you up and take you places you couldn’t have imagined” – Marie-José Van den Boomgaard, liaison manager startups at KPN

Solving both business and societal challenges

In addition to a commercial incentive, there is a societal one, too. “Every day, we are looking at what role technology can play to alleviate the societal challenges of today and tomorrow,” she says. “KPN’s network reaches into the very capillaries of Dutch society. The intricacy of our network offers endless opportunities to solve both business and societal challenges.”

The reasons for success and failure of collaborations tend to be highly context-dependent. “Nonetheless, some things can be generalized,” Van den Boomgaard explains. “When entering into collaboration, startups tend to be looking for resources, while corporates look to benefit from the knowledge and entrepreneurial spirit of young tech companies.”

Asking the right questions

Her advice to startups: “Try to put yourself in the corporate’s shoes as best as you can. Ask yourself the relevant questions. What is the essence of the collaboration, as seen from the perspective of the corporate?” Adding, “It goes without saying that we are equally required to cultivate our understanding of the startup’s perspective.”

She adds: “I usually have a hard time matching especially the more ideologically driven initiatives. They will have intricately thought out their product from an ideological point of view, but have often overlooked streamlining it with KPN’s corporate interests.”

KPN believes in openness & transparency

“Openness and transparency,” she pinpoints the main two criteria that are responsible for collaborative success in her view. “Position yourself as a true partner to the corporate you envision working with.”

“Surely, there are tremendous differences to overcome,” she adds, “They will make collaboration challenging at times. But when both parties are open and transparent, you will cultivate a sense of partnership that may lift you up and take you places you couldn’t have imagined.”