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Decoding Partnership Strategies for Startups

#Partnerships can power up a startup's #growth. But how should companies plan their partnerships at each stage?

Let's break it down from startups to enterprise.

Startups need partnerships for 3 key reasons:

✔️ Gain access to new customers

✔️ Enter new markets

✔️ Scale efficiently

There are different ways to think about partnership stages [flip through slides] so adjust this guide to your product and market.

💡 Pre-product-market fit


Focus on technical integrations, cloud marketplaces, and referrals.

Integrations unlock access to new customers.

Marketplaces (AWS, Google Cloud, Salesforce Marketplace, etc.) help to accelerate procurement for enterprise clients. While listing alone will not get your product discovered, marketplaces can unlock enterprise clients if paired with traditional sales motions.

📊 Early growth


Consider co-selling with technical partners, gradually bringing in solution-integration providers (e.g. Accenture) managed-service providers (MSPs), and value-added resellers (VARs).

MSPs run technology (e.g. cyber security) on an enterprise’s behalf. They select and buy technology to build their solution, so they can add your product in the mix.

VARs are regional champions that focus on specific practice areas and already have established client relationships. They may use your product and combine with their services to deliver customer outcomes. HubSpot is famously getting 43% of revenue from this type of partner.



You have a flywheel going and ready for broader go-to-market partnerships, including partnering with distributors. E.g. Ingram Micro, who sell third-party tech via their network of 100K+ of VARs.

Many things have to be done right to build a successful partner program.

They include creating compelling Better Together stories, listening to partners/customers and making a partnership program scalable using tools.

🎯 One of the most significant questions for startups is - should we partner with many small companies or find a few key partners?

Often, startups want many partnerships to stay flexible and move fast. But this approach may not bring the most success. It's a simple calculation: Small x Small = Small.

A better strategy might be to team up with 'Sumo Partners,' bigger companies that can help increase your reach in the market. Think of the Microsoft partnership with OpenAI.

By creating close, valuable partnerships, startups can introduce their products alongside popular offerings. This helps both parties and lets you reach more of the market.

In the end, picking the right partnerships can boost a startup's growth. It's about finding the right balance - choosing the right partners, creating shared value, and keeping the ability to adapt as you grow.

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