“Who wants a copy of the Partnerships & Acquisitions Playbook????” I asked the audience as I kicked off the day’s proceedings on the Innovation Catalysis stage at Money20/20 this year.
I got a few mumbled cheers …….. it was day 2 of the event and the previous night’s party at the fabulous Taste of Amsterdam food festival had continued close to midnight.
I tried again with a rabble-rousing shout “WHO WANTS A COPY???”
This time I got a loud cheer from a large part of the audience ……. the coffee was starting to kick in.
“Well – you’re all suckers! Did you REALLY think there was such a thing??” I said to a smattering of applause and embarrassed laughter.
I’m sure there are many analyst and research organisations that will be only too happy to charge you an arm and a leg for such a playbook – but if you’ve ever played in a sports team (or been a fan follower) you will understand certain important aspects of your team’s playbook:-
- Your playbook is unique to your team
- It leverages the unique skills, talents and capabilities of your team members
- What works for other teams, won’t necessarily work for you – the converse is also true
- You need to constantly watch and learn from other teams – to figure out offensive and defensive strategies – and also to get the inspiration to experiment with and adapt what they do for your own team
- The “plays” you use in any game will depend on many factors and you will need to constantly adapt your strategy throughout the game
We had many teams and players lined up for the day ahead and I encouraged everyone in the audience to make notes for their own organisation’s playbook.
Matthias Kroener’s “Why M&A is the abbreviation of Murder and Assassination” deserves special mention as he paced the stage in a bloodstained shirt, brandishing a bloody axe, while he recounted the tale of Fidor Bank’s acquisition by an incumbent that couldn’t quite figure out what to do with them!
There was however a single thread that came up speaker after speaker, panel after panel across the rest of the day and that was
Visa’s Bill Gajda took us through the challenges they faced to become more open – embracing partnerships and startups was initially an alien concept to Visa, whose CEO had made a commitment on the main stage last year to make the necessary changes to enable this. The story Bill told was a positive one – their journey is off to a good start and the culture is changing (has changed in pockets across the organisation) in the right direction.
Everyone across the day seemed to agree that the power of ecosystems could not be ignored and being a part of an open ecosystem is fast becoming a survival skill. But culture clashes between the expectations of fast paced startups that are used to making decisions in hours and the risk averse incumbents who mull over meetings for weeks and months seems to be the biggest barrier to successful partnerships.
So what is the way forward?
Matthias had a strong message for the incumbents:-
“it’s all or nothing – be prepared to carry out a full culture change, or don’t bother”
What does your playbook look like?