Opinion Tips for finding a strategic partner in the U.S.
Tips for finding a strategic partner in the U.S.
A strategic partnership leverages companies’ talent and resources for mutual commercial benefit
A strategic partnership leverages companies’ talent and resources for mutual commercial benefit. Israeli companies, which are seeking a gateway into the lucrative U.S. market have much to gain by joining forces with a strategic U.S. partner to enhance their R&D expertise and expedite market penetration.
But how does an Israeli company find the right U.S. partner?
Look for a strategic partner
Seeking a U.S. partner should be a strategic move that supports your company's product development plan. The joint project may be a new innovative product, the development of novel technology that adds new features and improves your current product. It can also focus on adapting your product for a new use or to a new market, which often requires adaptation to local regulations. However, companies sometimes collaborate only because they happen to know each other and not because there is true synergy between them. Such collaborations usually do not bring companies real added value.
Adopt an open mindset
While you may be familiar with the technologies and companies within your sector, your product may require technology from a different industry. First, it is wise first to analyze your needs and capabilities and then search for a suitable partner.
Approach medium-sized companies
Most companies seek partnerships with the giants in their field of expertise. This may not necessarily be the best choice. Such big-name companies often receive many requests, and it could take them a long time to evaluate the collaboration proposal and make a decision. Medium-sized companies are often just as experienced, are eager to adopt new technologies and often present offers faster that help projects takeoff. You should also be cautious when approaching early-stage startups. These companies will often be enthusiastic to collaborate, but you need to verify whether they have the financial resources to commit to a long-term collaboration as well as the experience to launch a new product, since a partner should be able to support you in commercializing the jointly-developed product.
Happily ever after
You should also consider that the relationship between two companies is a long-term commitment. Projects usually last several years, and it is essential to build good channels of communication and mutual trust. I also recommend that you agree in advance upon certain procedures in case of challenges or conflicts that may arise. It is much more challenging to agree on such solutions amid a contentious situation.
Build parallel channels within the partnering company
When approaching a new company, you will usually find a "champion," someone who will lead the collaboration from within their company. I recommend that you build additional relationships to not remain wholly dependent on this single individual. This key contact could possibly leave the company or move to a different position. There may also be internal processes and politics that you are unaware of. Therefore, it makes sense to develop alternate channels of communication with others who will understand your company's value and the importance of the project.
Tips for finding a strategic partner in the U.S.:
- Approach people in the U.S. with whom you have been personally acquainted. Even if they are not suitable to your company and industry, they may have friends and colleagues who know people, and the results could surprise you. Also, Israelis living in the U.S. are often well-connected to their local communities, and can be helpful in helping you connect with potential leads.
- Take part in live meetups and online social events. This will enable you to become familiar with people in your industry, present your capabilities, and approach others and introduce yourself.
- Consult with your U.S. agents and distributors, if needed. Many companies tend to ignore these channels because they do not consider their agents and distributors to be necessary R&D partners. In some cases, they may or will be able to provide introductions to other potential partners.
- Don't approach only one company at a time. Such processes take time and if this one company isn’t interested, you’ll have to start all over again from scratch. Approaching multiple companies at once will improve your chances of finding an interested partner.
- Using databases and LinkedIn can greatly assist your search. However, it’s challenging to face an almost endless number of companies and is hard to attract the attention of potential partners. Try to build a short list of target companies and develop communication channels with a few people within them. Interact with their posts, share your insights in common groups, and ask for introductions through common contacts.
- Develop your company's social media presence and keep your website up-to-date. The first thing that someone you approach will do is Google you and your company before responding.
- Official channels: There are several associations in the U.S. that promote trade relations between companies in their state and companies in Israel. Some of these local U.S.-Israel chambers of commerce also serve as BIRD Foundation representatives and appear on BIRD’s website.
- Israel has four commercial attaches in New York, Washington D.C., San Francisco, and Houston that work to promote bilateral trade and industrial collaborations. You can approach them directly through this website.
- Also, many U.S. states have a local trade office in Israel, and representatives of these offices may be able to help you with introductions. Arizona, Connecticut, Delaware, Florida, Georgia, Illinois, Iowa, Maryland, Missouri, Nevada, New Mexico, New York, and Pennsylvania are among them. There is no single resource with all contact details, and the best way is to Google them.
- Each U.S. state has a local Economic Development (EDA) office that can introduce you to local companies. It may be more challenging to get a response from EDA offices in states with large tech hubs. Instead, try the states that are working to build up their tech ecosystems. Their offices may be more interested in connecting you with local companies. They may also have personal relations with companies and be more proactive about introductions.
Finally, the BIRD Foundation also helps to introduce companies to potential partners in the U.S. In order to do so, you will have to do the necessary research and send BIRD names of three to five companies that you would like the organization to approach on your behalf.
Tal Kelem is the Director of Business Development at the BIRD Foundation.