Then it happened again. A large company is accused of stealing the idea of a startup. This time Kredinor was the one in the spotlight. Unfortunately, this is not the first time something like this has happened in a Norwegian context. In fact, most major Norwegian companies have visited similar cases – including our company at DNB. We ourselves have changed our approach in cooperation with the entrepreneurial community to ensure that such incidents do not happen again.
Legally, the story tends to be the same: an entrepreneur believes a company has stolen his idea, but thus struggles to get through the legal system because the idea is often not unique enough. As for reputation, the story is a little different – both for the entrepreneurial ecosystem, which is relatively small in Norway, and for the companies they work with. Exposure in the media imposes one winner and one loser, but when such cases reach the public spotlight that is All losers. Because it is the bond between business and the entrepreneurial environment that becomes progressively more tense every time such situations arise.
This is very unfortunate because there is an interdependence between them. Entrepreneurs often need corporate clients, sparring partners, and testing environments (to name a few) from the business world, while companies rely on the entrepreneurial environment to bring capabilities and expertise that they themselves do not have “in-house,” and to be challenging. Solutions and new ways of thinking.
But it is not a given that collaboration between business and the entrepreneurial community is easy. At DNB, we have worked closely with the entrepreneurial community for a long time and we believe that it is still a challenge sometimes, but we have never thought of stopping. The gains are very great – not necessarily for us or the founders, but for society as a whole. Small and medium-sized enterprises account for half of value creation in Norway and are often at the forefront when it comes to technology and innovation. In other words, good cooperation between business and the entrepreneurial community has huge impacts.
Instead, we purposefully worked on maturing as a company in interviewing startups. Because we are not immune to this type of situation, but through many years of experience, we have gained valuable insight that has shaped our approach to collaborating with startups. This lesson was effectively implemented in the first phase of the Aprila Bank partnership. In this process, we prioritized clarity and openness about our plans. Effective communication and careful management of expectations proved to be crucial elements that allowed us to end the cooperation with Aprila Bank on a good note, despite our decision to launch a product similar to the same Aprila product.
But what does it really mean to “mature as a company”? We don't have a formula or magic formula for success, nor do I think anyone does. You learn from the experience you do and improve step by step. It is this efficiency that reduces the risks of disagreements and friction. For us, it boils down to a list of measures that we hope will serve as a guide for others working with startup collaborations in larger organizations:
- We have formed a partnership team that works centrally across the bank, as well as partnership experts in each area of the business.
- We were made Driving rules Along with the StartupLab, which all bank employees must follow in meetings with startups.
- We have created a course for all employees at DNB, a mandatory course for the bank's business development environments, which deals with networking with startups.
- We have also centrally collected all types of partnership requests Single channelTo explore potential cooperation with DNB.
- We also have structured models to explore collaborations with startups via our DNB NXT Accelerator programme.
- Partnering with professional entrepreneurship ecosystems such as StartupLab.
I hope this inspires other companies that are already working closely with the entrepreneurship community, or are considering doing so in the future. We need better communication and trust between us, we all benefit from this – including society.
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