Laura Beier Dec 6, 2021 10:45:47 AM 21 min read

BETA Bridges the Gap: A 2021 Look at Startup & Corporation Collab

The combination of Fortune 500s with an active ecosystem gives Minnesota a competitive advantage. The BETA Bridge program, powered by Livefront, is where these two communities meet to explore new ways to work together. 

BETA Bridge measurably increases the collaboration between corporations and startups in Minnesota through intentional connection and conversation. This year, we changed the format to intimate roundtables spanning four industries — and we're finally sharing insights from these conversations. Explore key takeaways here!

Q1: Food & Ag Roundtable


Casey Shultz - Executive Director of BETA

Nels Pederson - Partnerships, Livefront 

Brett Brohl - Managing Director - Techstars Farm to Fork Accelerator

Sam Hsu - EVP Strategic Planning, Ecolab

Jennifer Barta - R&D Director Dairy Foods Product Platforms and Innovation, Land O Lakes

Robert Forsythe - CEO, Milk Movement

Nhat Nguyen - CEO & Cofounder, Otrafy

Leena Pradhan - CEO & Cofounder, Canomiks

Amol Dixit - Director, G-Works Startup Incubator, General Mills


  • Key Takeaways for Startups:
    • When approaching a larger corporation, it’s important to make sure that there is alignment on the purpose and difference that the partnership could make. Make sure you align on the timing and how to make it a “win win”.
    • Understand the pain point that you’re solving. Really understanding who is feeling that pain point in the organization and connecting with them and showing that you have an important solution. Turn them into your strongest advocate. 
    • Value proposition needs to be a minimum of $3 saved for every $1 spent.
    • Before engaging with a corporate partner: Figure out if you need FDA approval, and identify what compliance/ certifications you need and start creating the processes necessary to meet the certification requirements.

  • Key Takeaways for Corporations:
    • For some corporations, the best time to work with a startup is when the company has rolled out their MVP to a few paying customers and has seen some commercial success.
    • Consider only working with companies with C-level support, because success can be dependent on the buy-in and willingness to work with startups at that level.
    • There isn’t a “one size fits all” for what type of startup to work with.
    • Both corporations and startups need to be willing to start out small to test products and services. 
    • Clearly define what success looks like with deadlines to make it easy for both sides to determine whether to move forward or not. 


Q2: Retail Roundtable


Casey Shultz - Executive Director of BETA

Nels Pederson - Partnerships, Livefront 

Ryan Broshar - Founder & Partner, Matchstick Ventures

Luis Moncayo - CEO, Inspectorio

Frank Jackman - Cofounder & CEO, Local Crate

Liz Giorgi - Cofounder & CEO, soona 

Joe Serrano - Director of Digital Strategy, Best Buy

Eric Caron - Sr. Director of Customer Applications at Caribou Coffee


  • Key Takeaways for Startups:
    • Make sure that your product solves a clear problem the corporation is having. 
    • When startups are very honest about what they can and cannot do, it builds trust with the company.
    • Solidify your “North Star” or mission — it helps to be authentic when thinking of how you can partner with corporations in a more meaningful way.
    • The way that you interact with a company is really important - constantly changing your process is a good way to lose people.
    • Look for corporations with innovation initiatives.
    • Building a product that does not require a procurement process and that somebody can purchase with a credit card is the fastest way to get them to fall in love with your product.
    • When negotiating a “pilot program,” make sure that it automatically renews unless the company proves that it didn’t work.

  • Key Takeaways for Corporations:
    • Instead of using the term “startup,” try using “small business” if you have a preference for working with Minnesota companies with a proven track record
    • When working with startups, try to make the procurement process easier and less cumbersome for small businesses. An example would be creating an NDA that is simpler and doesn’t need legal review for companies without a legal team.
    • Ask to work with someone who has worked in vendor procurement when working with a legal team to make the process go smoothly.
    • Companies that have teams dedicated to working with startups are doing it the best. Companies that have executives constantly searching for innovative solutions to their problems - they understand the problem they are trying to solve and can champion the solutions that they find. 


Q3: Fintech Roundtable 


Casey Shultz - Executive Director of BETA

Nels Pederson - Partnerships, Livefront 

Elizabeth Caven - gener8tor (now General Partner at Mairs & Power Venture Capital)

Susan Langer - CEO, Space

Michael Noble - CEO, Apruve

Jeremy Langeness - Head of Partnerships, Branch

Lee Luscher - VP of Strategic Partnerships, Sezzle

Amanda Thorne - Digital Strategy & Strategic Partnerships, Securian

Meghan Kober - Senior Fintech Analyst/ Innovation, U.S. Bank


  • Key Takeaways for Startups: 
    • The biggest challenge in creating partnerships is knowing which team to work with re: corporate partners.
    • In many cases, pilot programs are successful in getting traction with new customers. It also helps create a relationship with the corporation, which accelerates the time to be able to become a supplier and provides the data needed to complete the risk analysis.
    • A big point of friction can be shifting startup backend technology toward enterprise software solutions (Zoom & Google Drive are not the kinds of products that financial institutions are using).
    • For scalable customer bases, consider focusing outreach to C Suite level large corporations. 
    • High quality trade shows can be valuable to bringing in customers.
    • Make sure pilot programs have clear metrics that tie to scaling a business solution and have a clear path to commercialization.
    • Consider bringing data from past successful pilots at similar organizations to a potential client.

  • Key Takeaways for Corporations: 
    • Partnerships with organizations like Plug & Play can lead to high quality connections with potential partners. 
    • Consider creating a global pipeline if possible with your teams around the world — it allows regional teams to bring leads in from outside of their market.
    • Quick “no’s” and long “yes’s” — take a few weeks to decide whether you will do a pilot program with a company.
    • If you’re wary about a startup accessing customer data, try out a digital test sandbox that allows earlier stage startups to run pilot programs without access.
    • Buy vs. build: it would take a corporation years to create technology on their own, so from a financial standpoint it makes sense to invest in innovative startups.

Q4: Edtech Roundtable


Kelly Schultze - Interim Executive Director, BETA

Nels Pederson - Partnerships, Livefront

Eddie Olson - Managing Director of the OnRamp Education & Workforce Innovation Accelerator at gener8tor

Josh Thelemann - CEO, Proserva

Carlos Seoane - CEO, Extempore

Josh Slayton - ECMC Group 

Heidi Lund - Product Manager, Renaissance Learning

Andrew Morrow - Manager, Business Development and Software Licensing at Technology Commercialization, University of Minnesota

Dieumerci Christel - CEO, Enlight App


  • Key Takeaways for Startups:
    • When you’re reaching out to someone, you’re always selling — never forget the value proposition.
    • Positioning is key when communicating the full value of your product, not just features.
    • It can be difficult to be taken seriously as a startup founder. Corporations historically have had a prejudice against startups. 
    • Nobody knows how to run your company or sell your product, but many have done things in adjacent markets. Be humble and seek their guidance.
    • Seek coaches and advisors in every domain, from finance to leadership.
    • Know the student journey and where you are in it.
    • Connect with a team that is excited about new, cutting edge products, instead of a team that thinks it is a distraction to the core product.
    • Go to conferences adjacent to your industry. Immerse yourself in and amongst your customers and their problems.
    • The best CEO’s are constantly seeking advice and learning. Leverage and build your network to learn — never stop learning!

    • Do your homework: know what the company is, what their product is today, and what their product roadmap is.
    • Warm introductions are critical no matter your industry, stage, or business!

  • Key Takeaways for Corporations:
    • Regarding “build vs. buy,” when you’re operating on a “back to school” window, timing is important — you need to move quickly, know your goals, and be intentional about timeline.
    • Ideal acquisitions solve a market need for a corporation’s product suite, that customers are asking for.

  • Resources:

Learn More:

About BETA Bridge:

BETA Bridge brings together key players in startups and corporations to see how they can best work together. Supported by Livefront, you can learn more about the program here.

About BETA

BETA is a 501(c)(3) organization that develops Minnesota’s next generation of business leaders by inspiring and educating first-time founders. The BETA Group nurtures startups and small businesses with great scalability potential, so that they can grow to become our next Fortune 100s. Learn more.