Let’s be nice when playing with the new kids – launching #4weekstartupchallenge

Startups often struggle, and are sometimes dragged along to death, when working with corporates. Big bureaucracies, lengthy processes and different expectations unfortunately lead to difficulties in finding a way to work together. We as corporates thus need to step up to the challenge – make our expectations and processes clearer, and timelines shorter, if possible. Can we promise giving an initial answer within 4 weeks?

Vegard Aas, Telenor’s Head of Innovation, asks Asian entrepreneurs you’ll join us in the new #4weekstartupchallenge

At the Slush Singapore Founders’ day this week, we had a panel debate about “Playing with the Big Kids – How can startups partner with corporates effectively?”.

Among the key challenges raised were different expectations and understanding of complex organization structures, responsibilities and priorities. But the key issue is lengthy processes, and the potential prospect of being dragged along to death. Startups operate on vastly different timetables and cashflows than corporates, and if it takes months to get response and a no at the end, we might actually unintentionally kill them.

How can we as corporates take the responsibility to help fix this?

Launching the global #4weekstartupchallenge

We should be able to give a first clear answer within 4 weeks. Is the first light green or red? Is it a “no” or do we want to assess further according to a plan with specific steps. Telenor commits to doing this in our updated  “way of work” with startups, and we challenge other corporates to do the same. Let’s start a movement to help improve the conditions for startups, and have fewer “accidental victims” of corporate bureaucracy. Do you take on the #4weekstartupchallenge?

For initial contact, we ask that startups only share publicly available information, or such information they are comfortable with us sharing internally. This in order to ensure the right people can assess your proposal/idea, and to uncover potentially conflicting initiatives. We do not sign NDAs for first meetings, but will do so after assessment and clarifying that there are no conflicting initiatives, and before startups share the “secret sauce”. Until this, we retain right to consider different potential suppliers and/or internal development, which we will communicate clearly.

Efficient, transparent and tailored assessment process

We will ensure a transparent and efficient process, tailored to the individual case. Many cases will be shorter and a few might take longer, but a typical process can take around six months and can look something like:

Month 1

  • First meeting: understanding what the startup actually does and initial overview of business model and technology. No NDA shared.
  • Internal discussion: initial due diligence with some back and forth questions with startup.
  • Second meeting: further discussion with more expertise involved.
  • Internal discussions with Telenor’s own businesses for determining fit and placement, with more back and forth questions with startup.
  • Rejection or third meeting with own business involvement

Month 2-3

  • In-depth business and technical discussions with Telenor companies.
  • Fourth meeting (NDA signed here if technical discussions, or sharing “secret sauce”)
  • Approval from Telenor company’s management with pilot signed.

Months 4-5

  • Execution of pilot

Month 6

  • Analysis and discussion of results + due diligence (for Investment track)
  • Partnership or Investment consideration made – discussion on terms and agreement.


We are not sure if this is exactly how it will look all the time. But we have to start with and ambition, be transparent about the process and learn as we go along.

Will you join us?