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Alliance Managers’ Play Big Role in Getting Start-ups in the Door at Multinational

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/19/2013

It’s that time again where we are in the process of putting the next issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine to bed and poring over some valuable material that ended up on the cutting room floor due to space reasons. (How’s that for referencing old media clichés on a modern-day form of communication?)

For our cover story we spoke with several people from both sides of the fence of so-called “David-Goliath” partnerships, alliances between large companies and SMBs or start-ups. This is oftentimes a misnomer in our book since the bigger entity in these isn’t always looking to strong-arm its smaller partner. There are exceptions, of course, one of which you will read about below. Dennis Skigen, CSAP, business development consultant for Fitbug, online wellness coaching service and a maker of a device that helps people monitor their exercise activity and manage nutrition, has put together relationships with bigger health care entities such as the UK-based Willis. Skigen spoke about the role ASAP has played in getting Fitbug into meaningful conversations with a handful of large pharmaceutical players, including Boehringer Ingelheim and Eli Lilly and Company.

“It was game changing for us as a small company to be able to have that access. It is not the same thing as giving you a meeting with HR,” he said.

Although the connections made through ASAP networking opportunities help immensely in getting Fitbug in the door with these multinationals, Skigen also credited the unique nature of the alliance manager for enabling the start-up to make its case. For one, alliance managers are not as omnipresent as marketing, sales, and other professionals, so they have a natural camaraderie, to a degree. Moreover, alliance pros can compare their wares without making the conversation a sales pitch.

“The conversation has a different tone and a different level because you’re not trying to shine them on [your offering]. You’re not trying to give them the razzle dazzle or the dog-and-pony show, or any of those chestnut sayings,” said Skigen.

Shooting for the Moon

Prior to his current post at Fitbug, Skigen spent time with Digital Integrator, a technology start-up that collaborated closely with U.S. Homeland Security, the U.S. Department of Defense, and NASA. Digital Integrator encountered unique dynamics in working with some of the largest government agencies. The company found that governmental politics could be a significantly more disruptive force than your run-of-the-mill office politics. A major initiative backed by then West Virginia senator Robert Byrd was scuttled by President George W. Bush when the former was outspoken in his public criticism of the Commander-in-Chief. But even before that, Skigen’s upstart company had gotten the attention of bigger competitors in the U.S. government’s partner ecosystem, and unlike much of the IT industry there weren’t rules of engagement that kept competitors playing nice—or nice enough.

“The big companies got wind of us and [learned] that we had a solution that was better than theirs, and they squeezed us out,” said Skigen. “If you shoot for the moon, there’s going to be people looking at you.”

This isn’t to say that this was true across the board. Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC) played a big role in integrating Digital Integrator’s financial market data integration technology into bigger solutions for these government bureaus, and even offered to take a stake in the company at one point. Although Digital Integrator never made it to the promised land of unfathomable riches like many of its dot-com-era brethren, Skigen is still proud to have forged partnerships that brought him into the “inner sanctum” of our federal government. And at the very least, even if the connections he forges through other alliance managers do not pan out to something tangible, he knows his peers will have given him a fair shot.

“[Alliance managers] are collaborators. They are willing to talk about what makes sense.”

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Intel's Changing World

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/15/2013

This weekend, the New York Times profiled ASAP Corporate Member Intel examining the chip and semiconductor giant's plight as it faces an inevitable decline in its PC chip revenues over the next few years.

The piece talks about the efforts of longtime Intel partner ASAP Global Member Microsoft to diversify its chip partner base, Intel's recent collaboration with Hollywood players around a television set-top box and subscription service, and its less-publicized partnerships with wireless companies outside of North America on chips for smartphones and tablets.

On one hand, Intel will be challenged to compete in the new consumer environment that de-emphasizes the PC, in large part because smartphones and tablets require lower-cost lower-margin chips—not Intel's sweet spot. However, as ASAP Toronto chapter president Phil Hogg, CA-AM, vice president of strategic alliances for Moneris Solutions, noted in his 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit presentation, the company has already taken measures to cope with this reality with its spinoff organization Celeron. Moreover, the world of cloud and mobile is still early in its evolution. Intel still has time to insert itself into these markets while the dust is still settling and establish a partner ecosystem that can help it quickly develop products that meet the needs of customers while defraying the costs of getting market traction in this lower-revenue segment.

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Former FDA Head: Complex Drugs Require Closer Collaboration Between Biotechs, Medical Devices Companies

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/12/2013

Former head of the U.S. Food and Drug Administration Dr. Andrew von Eschenbach, who served in this capacity from 2005 to 2009, had some interesting things to say about the changing nature of drug development in early clinical stages. According to the Boston Business Journal, "Von Eschenbach stressed that the medical industry is at an inflection point, due to rapid advancement in recent years in understanding how cells and cell nuclei work. But as the types of medical conditions and diseases that are being targeted are more complex, the solutions needed to address them go beyond a simple drug or medical device. And that means companies working together much more than current intellectual property laws allows.

'You need to be collaborating and sharing intellectual property at the very outset,' he said. 'Today, there are huge barriers to doing that.'”

In the full Boston Business Journal article, von Eschenbach is said to have suggested regulatory changes and an overhaul in funding models to facilitate this type of collaboration. However, one has to wonder whether medical device companies and biotechs have the collaboration skills to execute effectively, even if von Eschenbach's recommendations were implemented.

This week, we put the editorial content for the Q2 2013 issue of Strategic Alliance Magazine to bed. During the course of putting our cover story on big company/small company alliances together, we were reminded that biotechs oftentimes need the larger company to guide them through working with alliance governance processes and such—not always, mind you, but it is common for the smaller entity to follow Big Pharma's lead. When you talk about a biotech–medical device collaboration, now you can conceivably have two alliance novices, which could lead to less-than-optimal execution of combination drug-medical device products.

Is this a real concern? We'd love to hear from the folks from the biopharma side.

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Alliance Excellence Award Honorees Benefit ASAP Community as Much as the Winners Themselves

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/11/2013

As many in the ASAP community know by now, the association unveiled its Alliance Excellence Award winners during the 2013 ASAP Global Alliance Summit, held last month in Orlando, Fla. ASAP board member Alistair Pim, CSAP, vice president of global strategic alliances at Schneider Electric, recently used the two awards his company received this year to talk about the greater purpose the honors—and ASAP membership itself—serve for Schneider.

Pim acknowledged the great satisfaction the two diamond-shaped trophies bring to the internal alliance teams, which have now seen their efforts validated in a big way. However, he also made the point that self-promotion is not the awards’ main value proposition.

“Rather, it’s to make the point that we are committed to excellence in alliance management,” he wrote.

In the beginning of the post, Pim illustrated the role ASAP has played in this commitment—most notably, through best-practice sharing with the community and Global Summit attendance year after year. By engaging in the process of nominating and winning an Alliance Excellence Award, and then promoting the story well after the Summit, the alliance management community gets an opportunity to learn from Schneider the way Schneider has learned from them over the years. In many ways, this reciprocal exchange of challenges and the solutions that overcome them is what the Alliance Excellence Awards, the ASAP Global Alliance Summit, and ASAP itself are all about.

Read more about Schneider’s two awards and what they mean to the company. Hopefully you, too, will be inspired to trumpet your great success story and help others tackle the obstacles you faced—and conquered.

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Rexel Partnership with Schneider Electric Recognized

Posted By Administration, Friday, June 20, 2014
Originally posted on 4/10/2013

Rexel -- a global leader in the distribution of sustainable and innovative products and services for automation, technical supply and energy management -- was one of the partners recognized in an award given to Schneider Electric for its alliance management capabilities in corporate social responsibility at the 2013 annual summit of the Association of Strategic Alliance Professionals (ASAP) held in Orlando, Florida in the USA in March.

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