Close this search box.
Close this search box.

To Innovate, Mid-Marketers Should Partner With Startups

Dozens of Fortune 500 companies today—ranging from Ford to Google to Nike to Tesco—have been breaking down stereotypical walls and avidly seeking ties with startups and entrepreneurs. In doing so, they are unlocking secrets from their smaller, nimbler counterparts that they can use to grow their businesses.

Their strategies range from buying startups outright to taking equity stakes, expanding their venture-capital funding, nurturing new outside enterprises with accelerators and incubators and even staging contests to attract new ideas.

Some mid-market companies are following their larger mentors’ lead, and perhaps those that haven’t considered the idea yet should.

For example, Kwikset, a $500-million-plus division of Spectrum Brands, has partnered with a startup called UniKey which had designed a digital “smart lock” that threatened to disrupt Kwikset’s traditional security device market share. Now UniKey has helped Kwikset introduce its own smart lock ahead of its rivals, and the relationship with the startup is teaching Kwikset how to act more nimbly in general.

“We’re also leveraging this relationship to develop more of a small-company feel inside our larger company.”

“We recognized the industry is evolving quite quickly to the electronic space, and we had to contemplate what was the best way to get after that,” Greg Williamson, Kwikset’s chief marketing officer, told Mid-Market CEO Briefing. “And now, we’re also leveraging this relationship to develop more of a small-company feel inside our larger company.”

KPMG Capital unit is working with mid-tier clients to “invest in the best and brightest technologies we can take to them,” Mark Toon, CEO of the business unit told the Briefing. “Entrepreneurship and the technologies being developed globally are certainly being developed by small companies, and getting access to those companies is really hard for our client base.”

In fact, some experts believe mid-market CEOs may have an advantage over much larger companies when it comes to developing relationships with startups. “In some ways, they are better positioned” than Fortune 500 concerns, said Mark Morin, chief operating officer of Start Garden, a $15-million startup-financing firm in Grand Rapids, Mich. “They still have a fairly nimble structure, making the interface with startups less of a disconnect.

“It’s not as much about money as it is access to intellectual and social capital,” Morin told the Briefing. “Where large corporations have connections and access to large academic and research institutions, mid-market companies often have a significant regional social capital and relationships, via employees and their supply base, that make them a more likely access point for local innovators.”

Mid-market who haven’t yet probed this arena for ways to stay ahead of the competition and changes in their industries, they may be in a better position than they assumed, and now may be the opportune time.



  • Get the CEO Briefing

    Sign up today to get weekly access to the latest issues affecting CEOs in every industry
  • upcoming events


    Strategic Planning Workshop

    1:00 - 5:00 pm

    Over 70% of Executives Surveyed Agree: Many Strategic Planning Efforts Lack Systematic Approach Tips for Enhancing Your Strategic Planning Process

    Executives expressed frustration with their current strategic planning process. Issues include:

    1. Lack of systematic approach (70%)
    2. Laundry lists without prioritization (68%)
    3. Decisions based on personalities rather than facts and information (65%)


    Steve Rutan and Denise Harrison have put together an afternoon workshop that will provide the tools you need to address these concerns.  They have worked with hundreds of executives to develop a systematic approach that will enable your team to make better decisions during strategic planning.  Steve and Denise will walk you through exercises for prioritizing your lists and steps that will reset and reinvigorate your process.  This will be a hands-on workshop that will enable you to think about your business as you use the tools that are being presented.  If you are ready for a Strategic Planning tune-up, select this workshop in your registration form.  The additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $695 will be added to your total.

    New York, NY: ​​​Chief Executive's Corporate Citizenship Awards 2017

    Women in Leadership Seminar and Peer Discussion

    2:00 - 5:00 pm

    Female leaders face the same issues all leaders do, but they often face additional challenges too. In this peer session, we will facilitate a discussion of best practices and how to overcome common barriers to help women leaders be more effective within and outside their organizations. 

    Limited space available.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $495 will be added to your total.

    Golf Outing

    10:30 - 5:00 pm
    General’s Retreat at Hermitage Golf Course
    Sponsored by UBS

    General’s Retreat, built in 1986 with architect Gary Roger Baird, has been voted the “Best Golf Course in Nashville” and is a “must play” when visiting the Nashville, Tennessee area. With the beautiful setting along the Cumberland River, golfers of all capabilities will thoroughly enjoy the golf, scenery and hospitality.

    The golf outing fee includes transportation to and from the hotel, greens/cart fees, use of practice facilities, and boxed lunch. The bus will leave the hotel at 10:30 am for a noon shotgun start and return to the hotel after the cocktail reception following the completion of the round.

    To sign up, select this option in your registration form. Additional fee of $295 will be added to your total.