By Nikolaus Suehr, CEO and Co-Founder of KASKO 


There is this old notion that large companies and startups are rivals, and that startups are trying to take the work from big businesses by showing customers how much more efficient and agile they are, or at least, that they offer products the user wants – not ones they are told they need by men in suits. This is partly true, startups, given their structure, can be more efficient and agile. At the same time, while this is something that large businesses might lack, it is something where they can complement each other. The same goes for the new breed of products, startups can help incumbents realise a different path.

More and more companies across sectors are realising that collaboration is more beneficial than they had previously thought. At KASKO, we are strong believers that it can be of tremendous help with growth if both parties are ready to set out on the collaboration journey.


Nikolaus Suehr

The pitfalls of collaboration

Just like any other relationship, a working relationship is primarily about communication. It is, therefore, crucial to set the expectations clear from the very beginning because misunderstandings can kill your collaboration.

Problems between a startup and a large business can stem, especially from different cultures that they are likely to have. Corporates typically have processes in place focused on careful planning and long-term decision-making. For traditional industries, like insurance, this is something that large companies are very slowly giving up on. On the other hand, startups make decisions more easily as they are usually able to adapt quickly to new ideas. This can cause conflict between the two.

Collaboration is a key element for companies who want to think big, start small and scale fast. However, the collaboration needs to start small as well. Teams working together for the first time, should start with an initial engagement in a way that allows you to explore the collaboration and if it doesn’t work for both parties, you can easily go separate ways. An important aspect of that is risk-taking, which is something that large companies generally don’t like, while startups, sometimes, embrace it. Of course, a good startup will still operate with calculated risks, we won’t take them for the sake of it, but we are usually better placed to trial something, learn, and move forward.

Insurance is one of the most traditional industries and one of the slowest ones to adapt to change. It is therefore quite difficult for startups to break into the supply chain. At KASKO, we have created a platform that allows insurers to build, test and launch products a lot faster than traditionally possible, so we build them and use the channels they have spent decades putting together to sell through. Further down the line, we will be able to connect all the channels and create something of a global network – but that is one for a later date.

This whole idea leads me to one of the most important lessons I’ve learnt.


Don’t be afraid to pivot. 

You’re never going to know if your idea or business plan will work until you put them into practice. Same goes for collaborations. You won’t know until you try, but an important mindset is that you’re always able to change your directions and pivot. We did it, we thought that we could take on the old guard with our own products, building our own sales channels. Although we were getting there, the speed to market and user acquisition was too slow, so we pivoted to work with them, building modern solutions for their channels – that was the moment that KASKO as you see it, the founders of InsurTech as a Service, was born. Our task was to convince traditional insurers, and B2C InsurTechs that we can bring a lot more opportunities for them if they include us in their distribution channels.


So what should you know before you start collaborating? 

If you are a large business and consider working with startups, here are some of the benefits it can bring you. Startups can help corporates cut costs whilst adding flexibility, bring unrestricted new ways of thinking and access to talent, but also access to services and products outside the organisation. If you think you are ready to work with startups, make sure you really are, going in halfway talking the talk, but not being willing to learn, will end things as quickly as they started.

For corporates, the first step should be identifying pilots and proof of concepts, followed by establishing some ground rules. The focus should be on leading performance indicators rather than on trailing indicators. The reason for this is that new ideas and services take time to grow, so you cannot expect immediate results.

It’s also key to set a clear goal for the startup to work towards. In other words, both parties need to be on the same page. It is a huge opportunity for startups to start conversations with a large business, so in order not to kill this chance, both parties should try to be patient, fair and humble. If this collaboration will work, you will succeed.

Startups should be first of all open-minded. This can be a great learning experience and open many new doors, so staying curious is important. This ties in with listening to your customers as being part of a corporate can give you new insights for your business. Another thing that you as a startup might not be used to is that it’s probably going to take a while before everything starts moving and you’re going to start seeing results.

Collaboration can be a great way for both startups and large companies to change the way they work and grow more quickly than they would on their own. And that’s why big businesses should work with startups, not against them.


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