For a large organization, the business of collaborating with start-ups has a lot in common with the principles of crowdsourcing. Whether you need skilled technicians or niche sector expertise, the skills or insight needed to solve a particular problem are likely to be out there – somewhere. You just need to call upon the help of others.

Tata Consultancy Services (TCS) has been a partner of the Slush start-up event series for around four years. The very first Slush took place in Helsinki. Now it has spread around the world, becoming a truly global series. In 2018, the inaugural Slush India took place, bringing together innovative thinkers, investors, and representatives from larger businesses from the region.

For TCS, the international Slush partnership has enabled us to develop our pre-existing start-up network based on expertise and excellence. But for any large organization looking at this from the outside, it can seem like a daunting prospect. With millions of start-up businesses in the world, how are you meant to find the right ones to work with?

Even if you are able to compile a list of the ones working on issues that are relevant to the markets you serve, there are so many other questions to be answered before you start working with an unknown entity.

Such as: Will they be a good match from a culture and temperament point of view? Are they financially prudent? Are they working with any of your competitors?

The list of potential concerns could go on and on – and getting the answers you need to whittle down a long-list is going to be time-consuming.

Through our collaboration with Slush, and our TCS CoIN initiative (Co-Innovation Network), which was established way back in 2006, TCS has been tackling these challenges head-on.

Tommi Mäkinen speaking at TCS Slush 2017

TCS CoIN allows us to form the bridge between clients’ business challenges and appropriate start-up ideas. It has also helped many start-ups to develop proof-of-concept products and get them into productive use.

Start-ups can get to the heart of a problem quickly. With their ability to develop hyper-focus and devote resources to a particular challenge, they can rapidly test ideas and make improvements on the fly.

Larger organizations are far less able to drop everything in order to focus on a single issue like this. They have policies, processes and compliance to consider, after all. The cost of compliance, however, can be an almost-insurmountable barrier to a small business. That’s particularly true in sectors such as banking, insurance, and financial services where regulatory compliance is mandatory.

Bridging the gap

For TCS, the Slush partnership has become an important part of our crowdsourced approach to building the right solution for any given client’s needs; a sourcing platform that has enabled us to operate as solutions brokers.

It’s allowed us to develop an expansive network of innovation partners – specialists in their fields who can be deployed as part of a larger team to crack open a business problem and solve it. For our clients, it’s a gateway to a vast talent pool.

There is a wide and growing acceptance of calling in outside help in the business world. It’s common practice in the construction sector and has been for years. An architect designs a building and its construction is managed by a main contractor who hires in expertise in everything from demolition to electrical installation.

The topic of innovation and entrepreneurship has been discussed at length online and in the wider media and, as a consequence, established businesses understand the value in finding specialist help in the fast-paced, fast-changing tech world.

But, again, the challenge is in connecting the right start-up to the right larger organization. Where we can really add value to these kinds of partnerships is in ensuring there is a tight integration between the two parties and a clear understanding of roles, responsibilities and goals. By identifying the relevant strengths and weaknesses of both, we’re able not only to match organizations but help create project frameworks, too.

It’s an approach we know works, due to the work we’ve done through previous Slush events. Being able to extend that value into the Indian start-up world marks an exciting milestone.