Edited excerpts from Let’s Meet: How to Prevent Big Companies from Wasting Your Startup’s Time by Hunter Walk:
As a startup, figuring out how and when to engage with large companies is essential to not losing focus and driving the process towards a desired outcome. Some thoughts:
1. Don’t take the meeting unless you know what you want to get out of it. You don’t actually have to meet with BigCo, especially if they won’t tell you what the goal/agenda is, who will be in the room, etc.
2. Make sure the right people are in the room. You want an informed decision maker in the room. If you get stonewalled on this request, ask what data/information can you provide in advance to make it worth this person’s time to attend.
3. Unless you know your goal and prepare for it, make the meeting less formal. If it’s just an intro meeting, turn it into a meal or walk n’ talk to remove the ‘presentation’ aspect.
4. Turn every meeting into a recruiting opportunity. Get the contact info of everyone in the room. You never know when you might want to reach out to them to join your company.
(1) In my experience, the biggest risk of meeting with large companies is that their goal isn’t a partnership, but reconnaissance — to learn about what’s cutting edge in their market. An indicator of this is when a relatively large number of senior execs turn up for the meeting. How can you avoid this? Maybe by asking to meet with the key decision maker alone for the first meeting, and only progressing to a larger group when there’s clear evidence that they want to get something done with you.
(2) Perhaps the challenge of correctly framing meetings with large companies is just a specific case of how to set up successful meetings generally. On this, see the advice from Aaron White, Scott Britton and Steve Blank.