Trend of Big Corporations Partnering with Small Businesses

small business and big-business partneringMickey Meese writes in the New York Times about the trend of large corporations partnering with small businesses.

The eXpresso Corporation, a start-up company in Palo Alto, Calif., followed a well-worn path in technology by aligning with Microsoft, Cisco, and other big-name companies to market its services.

“All of these major corporations, at some point, have a need for new, innovative products and services because they can’t develop them all in-house,” said John Howard, vice president for business development at eXpresso, which offers an online service that allows people to store, edit and share Microsoft Office documents.

“They look to start-ups for the next great things they want to add to their product offerings.”

In turn, the smaller company can tap into the expansive reach of its bigger partner, which is critical in a downturn, Mr. Howard added. “We can piggyback to some extent on their marketing power.”

These small-business/big-business partnerships have spread beyond technology and now can be found in every industry, said Steve King, a partner at Emergent Research in Lafayette, Calif.

The articles give other examples, too. They range from free help resources and small business community sites such as American Express’s OPEN Forum and Intuit’s Small Business United grant campaign, all the way to product licensing programs such as Proctor & Gamble’s Connect and Develop program.

The significance of this trend can’t be overstated. As a small business you can get much broader market reach through partnering than you can on your own, provided you are willing to move at the pace of the larger company. Also, with access to free resources to build your business, you can grow your business and run it smarter.

If you are not looking around for opportunities in your industry to partner with bigger companies, or if you are not looking at big-company vendors to see what free resources and help they offer, you could be missing out.


Anita Campbell Anita Campbell is the Founder, CEO and Publisher of Small Business Trends and has been following trends in small businesses since 2003. She is the owner of BizSugar, a social media site for small businesses.

18 Reactions
  1. Martin Lindeskog


    This is an interesting trend. Could it be that bigger companies see potential synergy effects by a cooperation with smaller companies and start-ups? Is it Seth Godin who is talking about the “small is the new big”?

    I have been reading eXpresso’s blog for some time. It is interesting to see how you could use collaboration tools in order to exchange information in a convenient way.

    It was great to see a familiar name in the article… 🙂 I hope you will see some NYT readers checking out your site in the near future!

  2. Hi Anita, thanks for the shout-out about Small Business United. As you know, the folks here at Intut, myself included, believe that unless small businesses are successful, our big business can’t succeed. Would love to hear more thoughts on how big companies can help small businesses achieve success.

  3. Martin Lindeskog

    Kira Wampler,

    Beside you Small Busines United microsite, do you have a community site? I listened to a podcast interview with Scott Monty of Ford on Sun Radio (Socially Speaking) the other day and he said that they had created a special site called the Ford Story and he has a Twitter account, keeping tabs on everything that is going on in the cyberspace. Ford didn’t have their own Facebook fan page, but contacted a private individual who had already set up a page and they started a mutual exchange and cooperation. I found a Intuit fan page with the id number “25055115099”.

  4. @Martin & Kira
    I think we’re going to see more of this — where an individual who passionately believes in a company or specific product/service creates a radically successful FB page and then the company like Ford then comes in and sponsors it or cooperates with the owner of the page/space. Now, excuse me while I jump back in and read Anita’s full post!

  5. Hi Anita,
    I have a question: Why would I have to move at the pace of the Larger Co? Wouldn’t I be able to keep moving at my startup pace or do you think any big/small partnership ultimately changes the nature of the small co so much so that they can’t move as fast? I guess it depends on each deal, of course.

    “As a small business you can get much broader market reach through partnering than you can on your own, provided you are willing to move at the pace of the larger company.”

  6. @Martin
    can you post the link to this podcast with Ford?

  7. Anita: Don’t know if you remember, but you alerted us to this trend several years ago in a Future of Small Business workshop.

    As usual, you were ahead of the rest of us in spotting this.


  8. When it comes to small business challenges, you will quickly find that even the biggest of obstacles can be overcome if you are willing to stick it out. This is something that you are going to need to do from time to time, as small business is something that always seems to be the target for hard times. The economy and the lack of spending, is something that will take its toll on the smaller businesses.

  9. I can see now that entrepreneurs are getting more involved with communicating and helping each others’ business.

  10. This is something not surprising for me, and I really think this is a good strategy they’re doing. Small businesses will “upgrade” while big companies will have less risk of going berserk because they will have a stable partner or “hand to hold.”

  11. Hi,

    We have just added your latest post “Trend of Big Corporations Partnering with Small Businesses” to our Directory of Grant Programs . You can check the inclusion of the post here . We are delighted to invite you to submit all your future posts to the directory for getting a huge base of visitors to your website and gaining a valuable backlink to your site.

    Warm Regards

    Project Grant Team

  12. Interesting… Innovation often comes from the ground up — or the small business up. For small businesses to take advantage of these opportunities, they need to be known. Networking within their local, online and industry community helps — the more people know you and what you do, the better, since some of those people will likely work at large businesses. Here’s a great article on how small businesses can leverage communities to build their business.

  13. Hi,

    I am currently in talks with a large company regarding a possible partnership with my small company.
    I am looking for advice on the pro’s and con’s of a partnership with the larger company as opposed to just renting space within the larger company fascility and vice versa??

    I am strongly considering the partnership option and feel that by the large company having shares in my company would give them more incentive to grow my company and also give us more access to there resources.