Value creation in asymmetric alliances

Monday, September 17, 2018 - 10:00

A study co-written by TBS professor Lourdes Pérez about alliances between large companies and startups

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Alliances between companies are very common in various sectors, especially in technology, and have been the subject of many academic studies. However, little theory has been developed about asymmetric alliances, which take place between very large and consolidated companies and small companies with little experience in the market, usually startups.

"If you apply the theories about alliances between large companies to asymmetric alliances, the conclusion is that asymmetric alliances would not work, and yet there are many that work," says Marketing and Strategy professor Lourdes Pérez, co-author of the study Value creation and appropriation in asymmetric alliances: the case of tech startups.

Lourdes Pérez points out that the key difference between symmetric and asymmetric alliances is the appropriation of value: "Before, collaborations between companies occurred when they had much in common, and the value of the partnership was shared. If one company gets more, the other will take less. In asymmetric alliances, however, the difference between organizations is such that relations are symbiotic. In case of success, both generate and both win. 

Startup companies, according to Pérez, obtain a knowledge of the sector that allows them to work with more similar companies in the future. In the case of large companies, these alliances can be translated into an outsourcing by a large company of its Research and Development (R&D). "Both large and small companies are more willing to invest resources and knowledge, knowing that they will receive the full benefits of this investment." 

The study also describes one of the most common reasons why an asymmetric alliance may fail: a gap in communication that, according to the TBS Marketing and Strategy professor, must be solved immediately. "It is necessary to find in the big company a manager who, although not the CEO of the company, can act as the ally of the small company when difficulties arise," advises Lourdes Pérez.

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