How to build meaningful partnerships

Nobody operates in isolation, especially when you’re building a company. It’s a challenging journey that you’re not going to accomplish if you try to go it alone. Learn the fundamentals to approach effective partnerships.

huilin-chin

Author

HuiLin Chin

"Be respectful, consistent and communicate!" former head of partnerships at Antler, HuiLin Chin shares the importance of building strong relationships with key partners.

No man is an island

Nobody operates in isolation, especially when you're building a company. It's a challenging journey that you're not going to accomplish if you try to go it alone. That, plus the fact that we increasingly function in homogenous ecosystems rather than isolated one-to-one relationships, makes partnerships a much-needed aspect of any business. It is important to work with partners who are aligned with your goals in order to survive, let alone grow.

Set your priorities

It is important to determine which partnerships are necessary to deliver value to your customer. For instance, you may need certain local partners to access a key market to begin with, or you may need to access capabilities that you can't build entirely on your own.

As a general rule, prioritise avenues where value goes both ways without having to deviate from your focus and execution. It's important, especially at an early stage, to build a sense of how your business can also be of interest to other partners and leverage off those strengths. I personally follow the 80:20 rule: if you're knocking very hard on the door of a non-committal partner, I would suggest you focus your energy on those where the mutual interest lies - those who could mutually share and benefit from your vision.

Where to begin

Fundamentally, it comes down to knowing the problem you're solving. Which VCs are relevant? Who are the players? What is the market like? What do you want from these partnerships? Once you do know, it's pretty straightforward. Reach out through events, networking, ask your existing contacts to connect you. When you meet someone, always remember to ask if there is anyone else you could be introduced to who is relevant. It's not rocket science. And then make sure you follow up and remember that how you interact with these contacts reflects on your brand.

It is also worth considering working with other startups, as they will be more forgiving of your constraints and unpredictable journey. Furthermore, they stand to gain more from your complementary skills. Another category of partners you shouldn't overlook is investors. Think of them as partners rather than as sources of capital. They want you to be successful and can have a very significant impact on your business strategy and key decisions. Work with them, not for them, tap into their connections and networks and get introduced to the right people.

Consideration, Consistency, Communication

You need to establish yourself as trustworthy in the way you engage and communicate with partners. Basic consideration and respect for their time are important. Be clear and concise with your reasons for the partnership, be on time and be transparent. Be clear what your ask is.

Consistency is the other really important thing because sets the standards for what others can expect from you. For instance, if your company branding and story says one thing but that's not reflected in how you present yourself, or if what you're saying to partners is inconsistent with what you say to investors or clients then there is a problem.

Communication is also really important - find a way to engage your partners even if there's no immediate collaboration. Follow up on key developments relevant to them, send regular updates, and if you don't hear back, don't take it personally!

Stay relevant

Partnerships are especially important when you're starting out because they plug you into a system that will give feedback and maybe even evolve based on what you're doing and help along with the problem you're trying to solve. Even larger, more established companies need to work with key clients and partners in developing relevant solutions. As an added caveat, working with governments and institutions can ensure that your business goals fit into the long-term narrative of the operating environment you are in - ensuring you stay relevant for longer.

Subscribe to our newsletter

Get the latest news and views from Antler’s global community

Thank you! Your submission has been received!
Oops! Something went wrong while submitting the form.

Must-read articles from Antler

Browse our collection of founder stories, industry insights and latest startup successes from Antler Australia

See articles
Insights
5 min read
The 2022 Benelux Unicorn Founder Roadmap: How to build unicorns in Benelux

As everyone anticipates the next wave of ultra-successful companies in Benelux, what does it take to get there? What do the successful founders of Benelux unicorns look like? This report is an in-depth look at the Benelux startup ecosystem and its brightest stars. And above all, it is for anyone who is helping build the next 50 unicorns in Benelux.

Insights
5 min read
The Angle: Why the long-term view is the hard but right one

The Angle is a new content series from Antler, featuring perspectives from our team members on the biggest events and trends impacting founders and early-stage investors today. Every article is that person's unique angle on a hot topic—what they see from their vantage point in one of our 25 offices around the globe—not Antler's stance. In our first edition, Jeff Becker draws lessons from the demise of FTX and turbulent tech moments in recent years. This article first appeared in Jeff's Monday Morning Meeting on Substack.

Founder Stories
5 min read
Jamie Bubb: The tech marketing venture developer connecting brands and content creators

Our new content series—"It All Starts with People"—delves into the passions, motivations, and vision of the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering wtih around the world. In our second spotlight, we sat down with Jamie Bubb, co-founder of Twirl, a remote content studio powered by top-quality creators that helps brands scale their content engines rapidly and cost-effectively.

Insights
5 min read
Venture investing in the downturn

We are living two simultaneous realities: the uncertainty of the current downturn and the unstoppable wave of innovation disrupting every industry. Against this backdrop, Antler's Kevin Brennan shares perspectives on assessing your position in venture capital for the rest of 2022 and into 2023. Might 2023 be the best vintage for the coming decade?

Founder Stories
5 min read
Emilia Theye: The psychologist using AI to democratize access to mental health solutions

Antler was founded on the belief that people innovating is the key to building a better future. To honor them, we are launching a new content series—”It All Starts with People”—spotlighting the exceptional founders we have the privilege of partnering with around the world. Each story is a window into their passions, motivations, and vision—the reasons they are building and the positive dent they are aiming to make on the world.

In our first spotlight, we sat down with Emilia Theye, the co-founder of clare&me—a mental health app that uses language-based AI to develop an innovative approach to virtual self-help.

News
5 min read
Backing founders from day zero to greatness

Today we are sharing our new brand that reflects that commitment and the reason Antler exists: to stand behind our founders from day zero and to keep backing them on their paths to greatness.

Founder Stories
5 min read
Seven ways founders can prioritize mental well-being as they build

Founders are the life force of the startup ecosystem. They give their all, betting on their seemingly “crazy” convictions and executing on abstract ideas that can potentially make our lives and work easier, faster, healthier, and better optimized.

But sometimes they do this to the detriment of their health. Being a founder means being beholden to customers, employees, and investors while balancing personal life. Often founders trade their stable, well-paying jobs to prioritize the restless inquisitivity of their mind. In the quest to answer the question “what if?”, they sometimes sacrifice their mental and physical health, only realizing the effects on their state of mind once they have impacted their ability to function as a leader. We have also seen how the mental pressure on founders can cause distress to those who depend on them for their livelihood and direction.

Insights
5 min read
A fresh take on early-stage VC: Harvard Business School publishes a case study on Antler

Harvard Business School (HBS) recently published a case study about Antler’s fresh approach to early-stage venture capital. Antler Co-Founder Fridtjof Berge shares thoughts on how the case sparks discussion about the best ways to identify and support great people anywhere on earth.