If collaboration between a major corporate and a young startup is to work really well, the startup shouldn’t come in attempting to impose the ‘one-and-only solution’, and in turn the major partner shouldn’t ask the startup to shape itself to fit the corporate image.

Interview with Antoine Jeanjean, co-founder of Recommerce, who took part in a sessionentitled "How to foster trust between startups and major companies", during the B2B Rocks conference which took place on 27 March at Issy-les-Moulineaux, on the outskirts of Paris.

L'Atelier: What kind of relationship do you have with major corporates?

Antoine Jeanjean: Recommerce is a startup which specialises in collecting, reconditioning andreselling second-hand electronic goods, especially mobile phones. We work exclusively B2B,mainly with French telephone operators. It’s perhaps worth pointing out that Recommerce works in the opposite way to traditional e-commerce. In our business it’s individuals who sell to the retailer. This concept is finding appeal with an increasing number of brands such as IKEA and Levi’s, who are now themselves starting to think about setting up buy back programmes.

Is it essential, in your opinion, for a startup to try and ally itself with a majorcompany? What’s the advantage there?

No, it’s not absolutely essential. However, while a startup doesn’t necessarily have to ally with a major corporate, a partner like that can bring many advantages –the young company can certainly benefit from its network and expertise. In our case, we wanted to benefit from the brand recognition of the companies we work with. As a result we don’t haveto do any direct advertising ourselves, so there are no costs in that area. Major corporates alsolike working with startups because they’re malleable and flexible. If something isn’t going right,the bigger partner will say so, and the junior player will adjust things accordingly. However,there’s one important message which major firms should take on board: they need to take care not to stifle young startups by pressing them to conform to their own image at all costs! Astartup must stay true to itself and keep its own identity.


What advice would you give to help build trust between a startup and a major?

The startup must have absolute confidence in its product, but it mustn’t imagine that the major partner is going to change everything around just on its say-so. You shouldn’t turn up and say: “We’ve seen what you’re doing and it just doesn’t work, so we thinkyou ought to do it like this…” Instead you should be saying: "We’ve noticed that in this area you- do things like so… Now, we would suggest an alternative way of doing it. What do you think?" I believe that the key to success is to show self-confidence, coupled with a modest attitude. This approach has worked very well for us. Today we are partners with several companies, amongthem Bouygues Télécom, NRJ Mobile and Virgin Mobile. These companies have placed their trust in us and have allowed us to progress and to innovate. And look, three years on we’re stillhere!

By Kathleen Comte