Travel-startup in partnership with Moleskine: “We want to be able to run our business freely”
Strategic partnerships between startups and corporate companies can be mutually beneficial. It can bring greater value than mere money to a business, and if leaving out the financial funding all together, it’s possible to retain control of your startup, tells founder of Travel Kollekt.
It didn’t take long for a new, Danish startup to lure the large, international manufacturer of notebooks, Moleskine, into a strategic partnership. Despite their differences in size and age, the companies share the same customer base and have corresponding visions for their business. And right from the beginning, the founder of the travel-startup Travel Kollekt eyed these similarities as an opportunity.
“I reached out to Moleskine before I had even founded Travel Kollekt. At the time of our early talks, the idea was still taking shape, but they could see the potential in it. Usually, they collaborate with much larger companies, but our target group is the same, and my suggested partnership resonated with their own plans,” says Louise Zastrow, founder and CEO of Travel Kollekt.
Travel Kollekt gives their users the possibility to put together their own personal travel guide from a wide range of content selected by themselves, experts, or travel writers. Now, with the new partnership, the tailor-made guide can be put into print – by Moleskine.
Renowned for its iconic, black notebooks, Moleskine has in recent years worked on bridging the analogue and the digital world. This ambition calls for partnerships, and lately, the large company has started to count in startups.
”In Moleskine we believe in the importance of the journey of body and the journey of the mind. Traveling has always been near to our hearts and a significant part of our identity. In Travel Kollekt we see the opportunity to cater to both of these journeys. In addition, over the last 6 years, Moleskine has executed a strategy to create meaningful and relevant connections between the analog and digital worlds. To that end we have established a range of partnership and most recently started opening this also to the startup community. The partnership with Travel Kollekt hits home on all of these points and will no doubt enrich the lives of travelers,” says Director for Digital Innovation at Moleskine, Peter Hobolt Jensen, in a press release.
A partnership is no acquisition
The former Creative Director and Brand Strategist knew a partnership with Moleskine would help make her startup grow. But she also knew that the startup should continue to be hers.
“We had negotiations on whether the partnership was to be managed by them or us. If I have my way, there are for more possibilities. I know that when we succeed, numerous opportunities for expanding the concept will present itself,“ says Louise Zastrow.
And hence an acquisition, a marketing campaign for Moleskine or simpling hiring Louise to Moleskine was never in the picture. Instead, Travel Kollekt negotiated a global licensing trademark agreement, making it possible to use the Moleskin brand side by side with its own.
“We have a joint mission in assisting travelers in their travel planning. Being a new company, the partnership grants us possibilities for promotion we otherwise would have to fight for. Moreover, whenever we reach out to other possible partners, we benefit from already being recognized by Moleskine. It’s been part of my own strategic considerations right from the beginning,” says Louise Zastrow and adds:
”But we decided against financial support as we still wanted to be able to run our business freely.
We are now managing another brand along with our own, but Moleskine and Travel Kollekt are still to be seen as two separate entities. I benefit from having a sparring partner, and in return I have to follow certain brand style guides, but the question of how those are to be integrated in Travel Kollekt is solely up to me,”
Generally, Moleskine entered the partnership with only few requirements to Travel Kollekt, and after matching expectations at a number of Skype calls and meetings in person in Milan, an agreement was relatively quickly reached.
“If the partnership is to bring anything new with it, you ought to set each other free. The degree of involvement is a delicate balance. It’s easier when you are not financially dependent of the other. I believe also they benefit from this, and so did they,“ she says.
Louise Zastrows piece of advice on partnerships with corporate
- Choose a partner who understands your product and has a real interest in it. It will provide a better foundation to build a potential long-term partnership.
- Make a clear distribution of tasks and responsibilities, and pick a partner who is willing to adjust the roles as you move along.
- Be aware of whom you communicate with and on which level in the administration they are. Be sure you actually talk to the ones making the decisions. Otherwise the process can easily be prolonged.
- Consider your longterm plans for the partnership. What are they to contribute with, and are you to gain profit together or join in branding?
- A nondisclosure agreement – in short NDA – may be good to have if negotiations are taking place while your startup is still developing.