Tuesday, October 27, 2015

unConference 2015 Session: “Coopetition” – When is my competitor my friend?

Moderator: Dan Lieber, President, Innovative Ideas Unlimited, Inc.

This afternoon session asked the questions, “When is my competitor my friend?  When is coopetition helpful and what do I need to be wary of?”

Good reasons for “coopetition” include:
  • General market promotion and validation
  • Industry standardization efforts
  • Regulatory process engagement
  •  Market seeding in which one firm “gives away” a short term advantage to ensure better long-term growth.
Downside risk of coopetition includes:
  •  IP exposure and theft
  • Corporate espionage (though this may be a mutually accepted risk
  • Getting pushed out of a partnership that you may have initiated
For the most part, coopetition is effective when there is clear mutual gain for both parties.  Often, asymmetrical relationships work best.  These are partner arrangements in which two firms are widely different in size or stage of development. This eliminates much of the fear of head-on competition and allows a freer exchange of information and a better alignment of interests.

The group raised a few best practices for companies who feel a need to approach a current or potential competitor for a “coopetive” relationship:
  • Bear in mind that these relationships usually start between individuals who trust each other.  Keep and build that trust through the process.
  •  Be sure you are bringing something tangible of value to the partnership and be as transparent as possible.
  • Know your role in the relationship. Understand what you’re bringing to the table and keep the big picture in mind.
  • Understand that IP litigation won’t save you and the United States Patent Office is unreliable at best.
One participant said, “IP litigation is the sport of kings and small companies are not kings.”
Keep your focus. Keep working on filling your company’s core values and execute on that.  Bail out if the coopetition starts to force you in direction that is not compatible with your mission.

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