Marie-José van den Boomgaard has been scouting startups on behalf of KPN for the past two years. She is now ready to look back at what she’s learned and looks forward to sharing her insights so that startups can benefit. We checked in with her to hear her startup tips and tricks.
“After working for the past two years as liaison manager at KPN, connecting startups to the company, it’s time to reflect and give back,” Marie-Jose van den Boomgaard, liaison manager startups at KPN New Business, says.
“Having seen over 950 startups pitch and making over 100 deals with startups on behalf of KPN, I’d like to share some personal tips for startups that are eager to work with corporates,” she says. “I don’t use a scientific approach, but my observations are from the heart. I hope these tips help you scale and gain commercial traction.”
“Getting your first corporate customer will probably be hard. You can start by making a list of the corporations that could truly benefit from your solution,” she recommends. “Consider your solution from their point of view, not using a ‘push’ mindset. Proposing partnerships where each party benefits is typically easier – and more fun – when you offer a collaborative environment.”
“Your time is limited, so be focused and selective in choosing your partners,” she adds. “I sometimes receive pitch decks which clearly show I’m one of many receiving it. Those don’t resonate with me. The customized pitch decks which show research and solutions relevant to KPN’s challenges or issues are the ones that get my attention.”
Do your research
“Invest time to research the pain point of the corporate. As with any pitch, you identify the problem, offer a solution, and present it to the interested party,” she says. “Do your research online, read news articles, visit the shops, interview people, call the call center. All this takes time and effort, but you have a significantly better chance of scoring a meeting if they see you’ve put thought into your pitch.”
Be clear about your needs
“Sometimes, I receive over fifty requests per week in my position, but I still love it. What seems to be missing from many of these is clarity,” she explains. “Be crystal clear in conveying what you want from the corporate. While you may see many opportunities with a corporate, focus on the one that is most relevant to the corporate’s needs right now.”
She adds, “Once you have established the relationship and can show some success with the first project, the others will follow. There’s always room in the conversation for more.”
And, “Don’t ask for an appointment to discuss the pitch deck. The pitch deck is simply a communications tool. I want to hear about a custom opportunity for my company”.
Timing is key
“This is a hard one,” she says. “Everyone wants traction, and it’s hard to know where to start. If you’re in validation stage, make sure you’re asking for help with validation. Don’t pitch a pilot program or try to make a deal. It’s too early in the game.”
“We stimulate validation for startups with our Startup Friday lunches. We organize these monthly meetings. You can find them on Eventbrite. It’s open to all and can be used to validate your proposition with potential users or experts,” she shares.
“If you’re testing your Minimum Viable Product (MVP), make it clear. Ask for a pilot that is mutually beneficial for all, but don’t overpromise. Remember, it must benefit both parties.”
She adds, “Are you ready to scale? That’s big business. For me, it always helps if you share your list of paying customers and testimonials. This shows me you’re on the right track, and we see clear potential for a partnership. Timing is important for you, and it’s important for me. It’s my fulltime job to scout for partnerships with startups, but I only get one chance with my business partners to make a clear case for working together.”
“This might be a tricky one. You are in selling mode, and sometimes that leads to exaggerating the potential benefits,” she pinpoints the startup perspective. Nonetheless, she emphasizes not to exaggerate: “It pays to be transparent. It’s the basis of any relationship, especially a business relationship.”
“Go over all the questions we will ask. Are you scalable? Did you perform all the security and data checks? Is your customer service in place? How difficult is installation?” she explains. “We know you need to learn and your startup might be at an early stage, but manage expectations before you start the deal. This will generate a low-term relationship based on trust that pays off in the long run.”