How do you evaluate a startup to collaborate with?

– By Jean-Baptiste Leguet



You’re a large company and you’ve identified a startup that offers a solution that interests you. You’d like to evaluate this startup, but you don’t know how.   


Generally speaking, the tools and evaluation criteria that large companies use are not suited to startups, which don’t have a long enough track record in business. So other methods must be used in this case.   

Here are a few ways to evaluate a startup:   

  • Determine how mature the startup is and what type of solution it’s offering 

  • Request a prototype demonstration  

  • Talk to the startup’s incubator  

  • Evaluate the startup’s tests of its solution 

  • Ask for customer reviews or other references 

  • Evaluate the financial information available about the startup 

  • Compare the startup against its direct and indirect competitors 


Unfortunately, large companies don’t always have the in-house skills needed to evaluate a startup operating outside their fields of expertise (in fields that often present opportunities for innovation). For example, if your organization has no expertise in artificial intelligence, how can you determine how far along a particular solution is, or whether a startup’s team has the skills to complete the project? Faced with such a situation, many companies call on external resources.   




Large companies often overlook two other essential considerations as well:   

The work the proposed startup still has to complete:  


It’s important to consider the advances made and to be as precise as possible about the work that remains to be done, as innovation brings its share of uncertainty and it can be difficult to estimate how long it will take to complete work that has never been done before. That’s why it’s advisable to collaborate with a resource that can conduct a serious assessment of the work that has already been done and the startup’s ability to complete the project.   

Those who will be using the technology the startup is developing:  


The initial users of solutions developed by startups are often technology enthusiasts, typically R&D engineers. However, to ensure that the solution meets the needs of the product’s users, it’s important to check whether the technology can be adapted to their needs within the allotted time. Strangely enough, corporate innovation programs often underestimate this issue of achieving a technological solution that meets users’ needs.   



In short, the above considerations can be evaluated by an external resource. For example, a Deeptech startup incubator with an open innovation program can provide an accurate assessment of a startup’s potential. At your end, the first step is to assess how the technology would fit into your innovation strategy and whether it will meet users’ needs.

Want to find out more about open innovation?