Jul 25,2014

More and more, we’re seeing the trend of multinationals connecting with innovators that deliver unique and valuable solutions to their clients and accelerated access to markets. With a changing the landscape of startup business acceleration, the challenges and opportunities of working with larger multinational corporations (MNCs) are vital, but the question remains: how can start-ups gain and best leverage attention from these companies? Guiding the discussion at TechWadi’s Annual Conference, Facebook’s Principal Research Scientist Ahmad Abdulkader – a renowned expert in machine learning with a trailblazing history at Microsoft and Google – explores this question with advice from leading multinational executives.

Jamie Armistead, Bank of the West’s VP of Multichannel Banking knows a thing or two about the start-up world. A subsidiary of BNP Paribas, Bank of the West is currently California’s 5th largest bank, with more than 700 branches in the Midwest and Western United States. Having previously worked with Bank of America, Jamie notes that risk appetites will vary from across banks and corporations. His advice is to look for the MNCs that have strategic investment arms. Also, if you plan to cater to the financial services sector, be ready for a sea of regulations that face all bank vendors. But don’t let that discourage you: the mobile deposit technology popularized by Chase came from the start-up side, and with a 4% decline per year of bank branch traffic, the hard work definitely can pay off.

As the world’s largest software maker measured by revenues – and thus one of the most valuable companies, Microsoft has seen its fair share of entrepreneurial traffic within its own walls. The company’s Senior Director, Tarek Elabbady, has worked with Microsoft in the U.S., Egypt, and Tel Aviv, and singlehandedly started Microsoft’s advanced technology lab. His advice for start-ups looking to grow? Multinational corporations are great for business opportunity and exits, but in the early days when culture and innovation are key, its best to avoid the corporate speed of operations. Microsoft General Manager Naseem Tuffaha works with the company’s ecosystem of startups and can attest for the positive role technology-focused multinational corporations can play in supporting entrepreneurship. Naseem advises budding entrepreneurs to pay extra attention to their contacts early on, and make sure you are adding the right people to your network.

Entrepreneur Osama Bedier weighs in with several years of experience in commerce and payment technology. Currently the CEO of a payment start-up and Board Director for WePay, Osama has spent a significant amount of time with both PayPal and Google Wallet. While the MENA region is seeing an increasing trend of active governments taking the lead in fostering technology entrepreneurship, national institutions can definitely help support the ecosystem infrastructure. But Osama warns of the dangers of aligning too closely with government: not only can it stifle innovation, but can often prevent the necessary incubation period for companies to gain popular support that may one day end up saving it, just look at Uber’s journey.

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