#Events: Collaborating with startups to ignite innovation

Last week, CIPS Switzerland invited Procurement professionals and a select few startups for an evening of interactive pitching, questioning and brainstorming at Switzerland Innovation Park Basel. With Basel as the location, this was bound to be a pharma and life-sciences heavy event. And indeed two of the three startups focus on pharma uniquely, the third with a broader offering. I was asked to participate as a Procurement panellist challenging the pitching startup.

Startup Procurement Innovation

A great and interactive evening for all participants with learnings for all. Some of the themes that struck me:

Complex made simple

The best presenters were able to take a complex product and make it easy to understand for a non-expert audience. Language used, visuals and telling a story relating to the real world are great tools to make that happen. Testing the pitch with people who have no idea is very valuable

Memorable turns to curious

Being memorable for the right reasons means presenting a unique proposition, being clear what you’re good at (and it’s not “everything”) and who you want to sell to. Confident, but humble and engaging the audience. Those pitches get Procurement’s curiosity and spark thought how that company could help your company – and who might be interested.

Tough questions

There will be tough questions and the entrepreneur should welcome the opportunity to practise responding. Refrain from coming across as defensive by declining to answer. Be prepared, answer candidly and occasionally with a bit of humour and show understanding why they ask the question. How about creating an FAQ of tough Procurement questions internally and prepping smart answers?

Evolution of roles

Corporate roles, their focus and how they see themselves evolves. Procurement is not the Procurement it was 10 years ago and a drive to spend more face time with the market, looking at suppliers beyond the usual suspects and feeling in charge of Innovation are certainly newish developments. As a supplier, learn about how the role changes and how you can sync in with the new breed.


We have written about the topic of Procurement meeting Entrepreneurship extensively and work with diverse SME clients looking to develop business with large corporates. Learnings from these client interactions were confirmed at last night’s event and glad to see that the interest from other Procurement professionals in paying more attention to smaller, innovative companies is indeed growing and traditional Procurement metrics of focussing primarily on cost out are being challenged by smart minds in many organizations.

One of the participating startup representative commented that he came in not really knowing much about the Procurement profession and was struck by the diverse crowd and nuanced discussion during the evening. As suggested in #Entrepreneur meets Procurement, seeing Procurement as a partner, understanding their agenda and speaking their language can only benefit the entrepreneur. Again, a dogma shift away from an adversarial relationship.

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