Corporate “rocket fuel” as the scale engine for startups

Collaboration between corporations and startups can be the key to long-term growth for both parties - but only if the right collaboration and framework is in place. This post describes how we see the potential of working closely with startups as a corporation, and how we support our portfolio of startups as a scale engine. 


After decades with significant innovation in hardware, followed by the dominance of software innovation, we have arrived in an era, where the value of a company is defined by its ability to connect technology with a host of physical objects and create a digital business with optimized operations and improved customer experience. 

This development has matured the need for bridging established organizations with startups. The two may seem like opposites when it comes to factors such as culture, mindset and methods. But in a partnership, that allows the startup’s agility and understanding of the market to be combined with the muscle of the corporate partner – data, customer insights and distribution channels – this diversity can become the rocket fuel that accelerates the evolution of the industry, the client experience and not least the growth of the companies that drive the acceleration.

Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) now makes up 18 pct. of all venture capital investments and in the past three years, the total capital invested has nearly doubled. 

At the same time, more than 80 pct. of corporations now view interaction with startups as important for their business.

Mapping rocket fuel

In order to identify the synergies for startups and corporations to collaborate, the first step is to map the rocket fuel that can accelerate the growth, value and benefits for both parties.

Most startups have two clear goals in their search for funding: 1. Building a product 2. Scaling it.

The biggest challenge and risk of failure is in the scaling process, and this is where corporates can create real impact for startups which goes way beyond funding. A recognized corporate brand can lend legitimacy to a new solution, and a partnership can provide the startup with access to existing channels of distribution, a global client base and operational expertise. Furthermore, the startup can gain insights from the entire value chain - and build solutions that reach across instead of addressing a single link.

This makes corporates the ideal scaling engine for startups, and many startups are realizing these benefits of a corporate partner for stable, long-term business development and growth. 

Be the test case
Ideally, the organization itself can be used as a test case for the startup to invest in or collaborate with. Finding the potential clients in your organization and validate whether the solution can address the customer’s specific challenge, and, more importantly, provide ROI. If an internal customer is not an option, look for a problem owner that might be able to validate the potential of the solution. Access to a potential client can be crucial to a startup, either as a reference case or to validate the problem their solution addresses.

Minimal viable pilot
The key to a successful corporate-startup partnership is not comprehensive analyses and long planning phases, but rather fast, low-cost “minimal viable pilots" to map the partnership synergies and unleash the right rocket fuel. The pilot can work as a learning process that brings new knowledge to both partners, on how to engage and if there is a match to enable the startup to scale and find inspiration for new business models, competitors and products. When the right framework for a collaboration is in place, it facilitates the entrepreneurial drive and helps accelerate future growth for both the startup and the corporate partner, which is the key value to look and build for.

How we work with venture development 
The value-add for a startup must be carefully selected and nurtured to achieve benefits for both parties. This is what we design for in our Venture Development team. We focus on how we can support the startups with overcoming their main challenges. However, we have identified key areas where we believe we’ll typically support our portfolio of startups: 


Provide legitimacy through our trusted and recognized brand which can open doors to a large group of stakeholders from governments and officials to customers and partners. 


Access to interview customers to understand pain points, product market fit and business models. We can also provide introductions to relevant customers for pilots or other tests, as well as use our volumes to test platforms.


Access to our assets for pilots, and other value that can be unfolded from having assets across the logistics value chain. 


Data insights to markets, energy consumption, vessel data and global trade data to name a few examples, allowing startups to validate their assumptions and design for actual market needs as well as improve their internal algorithms 


Our 75.000 employees are a great value pool of experts and mentors, that can help the startups we engage and invest in, with knowledge and experience, that can shorten time to market. We can help validate go to market strategies, by offering valuable insights on regional markets, from pricing, infrastructure to cultural matters that are key when scaling globally. 

Maersk Venture Program

We are running our Maersk venture program for our Fight Food Waste Domain, where startups all over the world can apply to become a part of our accelerator program for a month. During that month the startups work closely together with Maersk Growth and our mentors from the business, to validate, mature and accelerate their business. The program ends with a pitch session and a potential investment from Maersk Growth. Get a recap of our first Foodtrack edition, where 10 startups from all over the world participated by clicking here

We will be posting more about how we work with our portfolio companies, the investments we make and how we can add value as a company to the startups we work with.