How This Exec Is Changing the Way Tech Titans Partner with Startups



  • Large corporations have much to gain through strategic partnerships with small business and startups
  • While acquisitions make sense in some instances, big companies can partner with startups in a number of different ways

HPE's Lak Ananth discusses the many ways that tech titans can work with small tech firms

Never mind the business ecosystem. The truth is that big businesses and small companies often just don’t get along, particularly in the world of high tech, where enterprises often view startups as hungry piranhas threatening the food chain.

It doesn’t have to be that way. In fact, it shouldn’t be, says Lak Ananth, vice president of the Pathfinder program at Hewlett Packard Enterprise (HPE). Ananth is working to change the way the titans of tech interact with startups and smaller tech firms.

“Large companies often end up just making financial investments because they can’t offer any strategic value,” he says. “We want to find a way to build meaningful relationships with startups and younger companies and connect them back to our customers.”

  • We want to find a way to build meaningful relationships with startups.

Pathfinder launched in 2014 and works with startups in two ways: as a venture investor and as a strategic partner. Both involve Pathfinder working with top-tier venture capitalists to find the best companies to work with. Cutting through the traditional red tape of big business bureaucracy, Ananth says Pathfinder’s goal is to quickly get partnerships up and running. “Five pages and five weeks” is the operational mantra. Pathfinder’s partnership agreement is just five pages long and partners can expect to be selling to HPE customers within five weeks.

Pathfinder focuses on startups driving today’s digital business transformation. Hybrid cloud, Big Data, security, mobility and productivity have all been common themes driving its 10 or so investments in the last year. So far, the group is already showcasing some big successes. One of them is Adallom, a Sequoia-backed cloud security startup that HPE invested in and brought on as a strategic partner. After onboarding the company, HPE became Adallom’s largest customer. Microsoft, one of HPE’s strategic partners, liked Adallom so much it acquired the company outright a few months later. HPE continues the relationship with Adallom through Microsoft today.

  • HPE Pathfinder focuses on startups driving todays digital business transformation.

HPE may not get rich from acquisitions like these, but the industry is stronger because of its involvement, says Ananath. “”Pathfinder has a very important role in connecting young companies looking for customers, and customers looking for innovation.”

Strategic partnerships are just one way that companies large and small can work together. Here are six additional methods that large enterprises can use to leverage smaller firms.

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