The eternal struggle: When should we engage with partners?

Inventions need partners to succeed – but is it best to bring them in early or late in the development process? We ask ourselves that question a lot, but there is no simple answer.

When we bring new inventions to market, we know we want a strong partner to help us make the product or solution successful. The hard question is just always: When is the timing right to bring in a partner? Is it super early on in the idea phase, when the product is starting to take shape or in the final chapter when manufacturing is about to begin?

Obviously, there is no simple answer – they all come with pros and cons.

Early: The co-creators

Early on in development, the idea and concept is hardly protected yet, which makes us more vulnerable when bringing in a partner. On the other hand, the risk for the partner is much higher. We still don’t know how well the final product will perform, and it is never certain how successful the project is going to become.

The inherent risk involved with early-stage inventions makes it harder to get as a strong a partnership deal. But on the positive side, this gives the partner more ownership over the process, which allows for more co-creation, tweaking features together and making sure it fits well into the rest of their portfolio.

Late: The well-defined powerhouse

Partnering late gives us a stronger hand when negotiating: A lot of the risk involved in the development has already been taken, and with a short time to market it is easier for a partner to assess the opportunities for them.

Besides a better deal for us, it also allows us to be more precise when carving out the right partner for the project. At this stage, where most of the development is done, it’s possible to pinpoint what kinds of skill a partner needs to bring to the table in order for the product or solution to succeed – which is a plus for both parties.

When or who?

In the end, it’s a question of risk.

We tend to bring in a partner early on if we’re uncertain about the concept – both in order to share the development risk and to bring in other inputs and skills to the project. The same goes for our biggest project which needs more financing; from a simple business perspective, we can’t bet our whole company on a single invention.

In the end, however, there is no right answer to the question of “when”. With similar projects we have both succeeded with early and late partnerships and going forward we’re surely going to continue this mixed approach.

Actually, it’s more a question of “who”. If the right partner shows up, the timing falls into place most of the time – and so far, we’ve been lucky enough to find ourselves surrounded by amazing partners.

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