How to Find Partners for Your Startup

Making a successful partnership is one of the best things you can do for your startup. Partnering with an individual can help round out your team and experience. Partnering with a company can give you resources and connections that you may not have had access to otherwise. Remember that it’s not about just finding a partner. It’s about finding the right partner to strategically enhance your startup and help you grow. ​

Make a List of Your Goals

Every startup has short-term, long-term, and stretch goals. Make a list of yours because it helps you understand what you hope to gain from the work you’re doing. If you’re looking to expand your business to find customers, your goals will be different than someone who is still working to make a product that’s ready for testing. Every startup is different -- even from its competitors -- and listing your goals is the first step to finding a partner. Not only will it give you an idea of what you have and what you need, but it will also help you prepare to show what you have to offer.

Consider Your Needs

Once you know where you’re going, you have to figure out how to get there. Look at your assets -- both physical and what you offer in terms of ideas -- and then look at what you still need. That helps you get a clearer picture of exactly what you need a partner to bring to the table. If the only thing you’re missing is capital, you won’t want a person who wants control over an aspect of your business. If you’re looking to improve a mobile app or become more tech-savvy, someone with ties to the tech community might be a better fit for your startup.

Consider Their Needs

People are unlikely to partner with your startup without an idea of what you can do for them. Even a person who believes in your idea and wants to finance you will expect to see some kind of return on their investment. Before you pitch the idea of a partnership to a potential partner, make a list of what you bring to the table. Expect to discuss your financial outlook and ways in which they might benefit from joining forces with you.

Make sure to tailor your pitch to each specific partner you speak with. Some will want the value of a connection with your company. Others might want data you’ve collected or services you offer. Still others will want to make a profit. Show that you can give them what they want and you’ll become an attractive option for a partnership.

Know Where to Look

Meeting partners isn’t always the most intuitive thing to do. If you’re confused about where to start, consider the connections you already have. Speak to people you went to school with, people you’ve worked with, and other social connections you have. Check Angel List. Talk to local businesses who offer complementary services and see if you can partner together to promote or highlight the other.

You can also approach larger companies, but you’re more likely to get a response if you have a direct in through a social connection. Companies like Uber made extremely intelligent strategic partnerships that enhanced their own brand, promoted their services, and strengthened their reputation. It may not be possible to form partnerships with large companies right up front, but there’s no reason not to consider them. Reaching out doesn’t cost much and might net you great returns.

Have a Reasonable Timetable

Don’t expect an answer from a potential partner right away. Whether you’re looking for a corporate partner or a co-founder, the person you approach will probably need to take time to think over your offer. It’s important that you don’t crowd them or expect them to make a choice right away. If you’re approaching them with accounting information, a business plan, and other details about your offer -- which you should be -- then they’ll want time to look them over, verify the information, and mull over how the partnership can help them meet their own goals.

Give the person time to make a decision. If they decline, be polite and thank them for their time. You never know when they might introduce you to someone else who can be helpful or when they might decide to work with you in the future.

Stay Organized

When you’re on the hunt for partnerships, it’s common to have to approach quite a few people before you make the connections that are right for your startup. If you can’t keep each perspective partner’s goals, abilities, connections, and other information straight, you won’t look as professional as you need to for a great impression. Things like contact forms, data sheets, and other organizational tools are necessary when you’re dealing with large amounts of people.

It’s also important to stay on top of any agreements or offers that you make to potential partners. You want to make sure that your dealings aren’t changing day to day or else you won’t look like someone that they can get positive work done with.

At the end of the day, a partnership with a business will help you expand your own and capitalize on the strengths of the other. Most of the work of finding and negotiating partnerships is knowing what you need, knowing what you have to offer, approaching the right people, and staying organized. Doing these things can help you close a deal with anyone -- and help you take your startup to the next level.