Navigating choppy waters: how corporates and startups partner for success

Corporate venturing isn’t especially rare, but tangible results so often can be

It’s not hard to see why. While both will enter into an agreement with the best of intentions, they can often be poles apart when it comes to culture, processes, experience and myriad other factors. At times, it can feel like they are talking different languages.  

When it clicks, the partnership truly delivers for both parties. To make it work takes a great amount of investment from both. This doesn’t necessarily mean cash, but an investment in time and dedicated resource to understand each other and promote the synergy that without a doubt exists. 

For the corporate, so often starved of innovation, this means bringing new and innovative solutions to the evolving needs of its client base. The startup, meanwhile, will unlock a treasure trove of opportunities with prospects they could never dream of accessing before. 

To understand how both can work together to deliver real success I spoke with Neil Edwards, Head of Consulting at Capita Learning and Dr. Chibeza Agley, Co-Founder and Global CEO of Enterprise Learning firm OBRIZUM.

1. What have been the main challenges of getting your tech to market?

[Chibeza]: Our main challenge is equally the most exciting aspect of business at the moment – disrupting the corporate learning and assessment market. When introducing a new and disruptive product to a hungry market, efforts must be directed towards helping potential clients not only understand the technology itself, but also how it will benefit their business. They need to trust your product, and feel comfortable deploying and managing it moving forwards.

OBRIZUM is delivering deep technology that’s designed to revolutionise the current way of doing things. Naturally, this is going to cause some ripples and so it’s our job to make our position clear and trigger the final push to get the clients onboard so that they can start extracting value from our solution. Communication is critical at this point, as we need to demonstrate to all prospects how this new solution is going to change the game – and why this is a good thing. We need to quickly dispel the whole ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ mindset and alter these perceptions to ‘it ain’t broke, but we can do better.’

One of the best parts of the job, without a doubt, is the moment when apprehension turns to understanding and excitement. Seeing a client’s eyes light up with joy is almost a reward in itself. It means they’re now standing right alongside you and ready to soak up the information.

2. How has the partnership with Capita improved you as a startup from commercialisation perspective?

[Chibeza]: Capita has been paramount to business growth and improved commercialisation as they have delivered access to an amazing set of blue-chip organisations that are hundreds of times the size of what we were capable of before. This in turn has offered

tremendous value to our business and will continue to do so. Plus, it would have been extremely challenging to achieve this at scale without Capita’s involvement.

Essentially, we know we’ve got the right technology for our prospective clients, but Capita brings the credibility and access needed to help get larger businesses through the door.

3. Where do you see this partnership going in the future?

[Chibeza]: In the next few years, our aim is to build on the speed and agility of our partnership with Capita so we can expand on client access and become more integrated.

At the heart of our partnership is collaboration and finding ways to make it easier to go out and find opportunities together. The nature of a partnership is that both sides work together and both sides prosper together. And the numbers speak for themselves: we’ve completed eight enterprise deals in eight months – all with blue-chip clients – since signing with Capita.

4. What have been the main challenges of securing contracts?

[Neil]: Over the past few years, we’ve actually weathered the pandemic storm pretty well, winning several high-impact, multi-year learning programmes in the public sector and managed service contract renewals with our big private sector clients, whilst radically transforming our internal capabilities and market offerings

However, this success does not come without its challenges. We have deliberately put ourselves on a transformational footing, with a broadcast desire to become a strategic learning partner with unrivalled breadth and depth. To do this, we have to maintain our strengths in large programmes and managed learning service whilst cultivating a more agile, innovative and consultancy led service offering

Changes of such scale can take a while to register on the market. Embracing and integrating innovative partnership solutions into our offer to the market is incredibly important for tackling that gap between perception and our new reality.

5. How has partnering with start-ups helped with this transformational move?

[Neil]: In one word: massively.

By partnering with new and exciting start-ups, we benefit from the fresh, cutting-edge nature of how they operate and what they bring to the market.

It’s helpful for us to position OBRIZUM as part of our broader offering to the market. Beza and his team are such a breath of fresh air – they are playful, creative, disruptive and help us to think that anything is possible. That energy is infectious, not just on the Capita team but also with our clients. It’s been great to see how our client’s eyes light up when they see what we can offer in partnership. Frankly, it’s unrivalled.

From a sales and marketing perspective, it’s also helped with brand image. Partnering with start-ups like OBRIZUM disrupts peoples’ notions of who we are as a company. So, while our previous image was a deliverer of large managed services contract, they now see us as

progressive and innovative. It makes people stop and rethink, which is worth its weight in gold. Capita is now associated with innovation, not just efficiency.

6. How will these partnerships develop in the future?

[Neil]: Looking ahead, our goal is not to layer on the profit. Instead, it’s about deliberately choosing to partner with the right businesses to provide the best offering we can for each client. By bringing together several partners, all with different experiences and expertise, we combine the value and improve the overall deliverance to prospective clients.


The innovative and fresh ideas from OBRIZUM enriches Capita’s portfolio and assists with their transformational move from a transactional role to a consultancy position. In turn, being part of Capita’s offerings, OBRIZUM is exposed to a whole new pool of businesses and is provided with credibility that opens new and exciting doors. In their partnership, the two organisations can capitalise off the other’s expertise and strengthen their positions in the market.

About the Author

Matt Bunn is Co-Founder at Scaling Partner. Backed by Capita plc, the UK’s largest business services company, we provide our partners with a unique set of services built upon three core pillars: 1) Access to Capita’s unrivalled network of clients and suppliers, developed over the last four decades 2) Dedicated, full-time employees from the Capita Scaling Partner team placed within the business to unlock opportunities and accelerate sales 3) The credibility that comes with the backing of Capita.

Featured image: ©embara