Call for startups

5 steps for companies to organize a call for startups

A study carried out by 500 Startups and INSEAD shows that 68% of the top 100 companies in the Forbes Global 500 continuously collaborate with startups. Enterprise companies are increasingly aware of the importance of innovation to remain competitive and accelerate their growth. However, the scale and speed at which innovation needs to take place requires external parties to get involved. With this in mind, the call for startups has become a common practice to stimulate and accelerate innovation. 

This involves inviting startups to propose innovative solutions to problems specific to the company. However, the success of such a program depends not only on the company’s intention. It also requires a high quality of preparation and implementation. 

In this article, we walk you through the key steps an enterprise company needs to take to successfully launch a call for startups. The aim is to maximize the benefits and attract the most innovative startups best suited to their needs.

1. Define the call for startups objectives

Why launch a call for startups?

When a large company decides to organize a call for startups, it must first define the reasons for doing so. These can be many and varied:

  • Finding innovative solutions to internal or external problems
  • Discovering new markets or technologies
  • Establishing strategic partnerships
  • Strengthening market positioning
  • Opening up to new growth opportunities

It’s important for the company to be clear about reasons for launching a call for startups. This determines the specific objectives and the strategy needed to achieve these objectives.

What are the specific objectives of the call for startups?

Once the reasons are clearly defined, it’s time to determine the specific objectives. They must be measurable and consistent with the main reason for the call for startups. Here are some examples of specific objectives to pursue: 

  • Change management or digital transformation: How can we make the organization more innovative, more agile and more willing to take risks?
  • New business opportunities: How can we solve key business problems faster and more cost-effectively?
  • Branding and marketing: How to position yourself as an innovative company?
  • Technology scouting: How to stay ahead of new market trends and emerging technologies?

Companies can measure the effectiveness of their approach and clearly define the next steps by clearly defining the specific objectives.

2. Identify the call for startups selection criteria

Then, the next step is to identify the startup selection criteria. Companies use these criteria to evaluate startup applications and select those that best meet the specific objectives. 

Defining selection criteria

Selection criteria can vary according to specific objectives. Commonly used criteria include:

  • Relevance of the proposed solution to the company’s specific problem
  • The innovation and disruptive nature of the proposed solution
  • Quality of the startup’s business model
  • The experience and skills of the founding team
  • Technical feasibility of the proposed solution
  • Fit with the startup organizer’s corporate culture.

Criteria must be consistent with the objectives of the call for startups.

It’s important that the selection criteria are consistent with the objectives of the call for startups. For example, if the objective is to find innovative solutions to specific business problems, the selection criteria should focus on the innovation and relevance of the proposed solution.

Criteria must be clear and precise

To avoid confusion or subjective interpretation, it is essential that selection criteria are clear and precise. Furthermore, criteria must be defined objectively, using measurable and quantifiable terms, to facilitate the evaluation of applications.

By defining clear selection criteria that are consistent with the specific objectives of the call for startups, the company will be able to identify the most suitable and promising startups to meet its needs.

3. Prepare to launch the call for startups

The next step is to prepare the launch. This step is crucial to attracting the most promising startups and maximizing the chances of success.

Determining the launch period

Carefully choosing the launch period maximizes impact and the diversity of the audience. Moreover, early communication on dates and deadlines helps startups prepare in advance. In addition, the launch period should be chosen according to the objectives. For example, when the objective is to find innovative solutions to a specific business problem, the call should be launched sufficiently in advance to enable startups to develop innovative solutions.

Choosing the communication channels to disseminate the appeal

The communication channels chosen to disseminate the call must be adapted to the target audience and the objectives of the call. Communication channels can include social networks, specialized websites, startup incubators and gas pedals, as well as partners and investor networks.

Develop a communications strategy to reach the target audience

An effective communications strategy is essential to reach the target audience and generate interest among startups. For example, the communication strategy can highlight the benefits of the call for startups, the selection criteria, the terms of participation, and the opportunities offered to selected startups.

Defining the terms of participation and the rules of the call

According to a recent study, only 48% of startups are satisfied with the appropriate contractual conditions, compared with 61% of big companies. Clearly defined participation terms prevent confusion and ensure fairness between participating companies. Good terms of participation mention the required participation information, selection criteria and how the winners will be chosen. In addition, rules should include participants’ obligations and intellectual property rules.

By developing an effective communication strategy, choosing the right channels and clearly defining the terms of participation and the rules of the call, the company will maximize its chances of finding the most promising startups best suited to meet its needs.

4. Organize project evaluation

After the launch of the call for startups and when ideas start pouring in, the company needs to organize their evaluation process. This stage enables you to select the most promising startups according to pre-defined criteria. 

Setting up a selection committee

Setting up a selection committee is essential to guarantee impartiality and objectivity in the evaluation of applications. A good committee consists of members from within the company, as well as external professionals from relevant sectors, such as investors, entrepreneurs or technical experts. Committee members should be chosen on the basis of their expertise and experience, as well as their ability to evaluate startups according to pre-defined criteria.

Organize meetings between committee members and candidates

It is also advisable to organize meetings between selection committee members and selected candidates. This will deepen their understanding of each project and founding team. These meetings can be organized online or in person, depending on the preferences of the candidates and committee members. The meetings enable committee members to better understand each project, ask specific questions and discuss the details of each application.

By following these steps, the company can evaluate the applications objectively and consistently, and select the most promising startups to meet its needs. The evaluation process should be transparent and fair, with regular communication with candidates to keep them informed of progress.

idea management software idea lifecycle

5. Support selected startups

The company must support selected startups to maximize the chances of a successful collaboration. This step is crucial if the collaboration is to benefit all parties involved.

Preparing startups to meet the company

The first step in supporting the selected startups is to prepare them for the meeting with the company. They need to be informed about the company’s structure, internal processes, teams involved in the project, the company’s expectations and any other important details. This information will enable them to better understand the company and prepare their proposal accordingly.

Identifying the needs of selected startups

After companies selected startups, it’s important to understand their needs so that you can support them appropriately. These needs can vary according to their stage of development, their field of activity and their strategy. For example, an early-stage startup may need initial funding to develop its product, while a more mature one may need support to penetrate new markets. So it’s important to understand the needs of each startup to determine the most appropriate collaboration arrangements.

Determining how to work with startups

Finally, after identifying the startup needs, it’s important that companies determine the most appropriate collaboration structure to provide support and extract value. These can include financial support, operational support, access to key company resources, mentoring, access to potential customers, etc. The goal is for both parties to leverage each others resources and knowledge to gain access to new opportunities. Collaborative partnerships must be clear and precise to avoid any confusion or misunderstanding.

By following these steps, the company will be able to support the selected startups appropriately, maximizing the chances of a successful collaboration. This step is essential to develop and achieve their objectives, while contributing to the company’s innovation and development.

So, when it comes to launching calls for startups, there are a plethora of options, but I’ll give you a few pointers. If you’re looking to organize an innovation competition, you can try platforms like Challenge Startup or Corporate Venture. Similarly, Viva Technology or the LVMH Innovation Awards offer access to the innovation ecosystem. As far as software is concerned, there are both free and paid solutions. If you’re looking for something simple and effective, try Trello or Asana. If you’re looking for a more comprehensive solution that includes communication and project management features, you could try or Slack. It’s up to you to decide what works best for you, and to think carefully about your goals before taking the plunge! 


Launching a call for startups is an ambitious undertaking that can offer many advantages for a company. However, organizing such an innovation program can also represent a real challenge for the teams in charge of the project. In this article, we detailed the key steps involved in launching one.

Once the call is over, it’s essential to take stock of the operation. The company must analyze the results obtained, and measure the impact of the call on its development and brand image. Analyzing the feedback will enable the company to improve future editions.

In addition, the call for startups can generate numerous benefits for the company. By choosing the most innovative startups, the company can acquire new technologies, talents and ideas. It can also enable the company to strengthen its brand image and improve its market positioning.

Finally, it can also offer numerous benefits to the selected startups. They can benefit from increased exposure, validation of their concept by a large company, and collaboration with a company that can help them grow rapidly. This can make it easier for selected startups to raise funds and attract new customers.

In conclusion, launching a call for startups is an ambitious but potentially very profitable approach for a company. By following the key steps outlined in this article, the company can maximize its chances of success, offering both positive spin-offs for the company and benefits for the selected startups.


What are the specific objectives of a call for startups?

The objectives of a call for startups can vary, but they often include seeking innovative solutions, discovering new markets, establishing strategic partnerships, strengthening market positioning, and exploring new growth opportunities.

How do companies choose startups for collaboration?

Companies choose startups for collaboration based on criteria such as solution relevance, innovation, business model quality, team experience, technical feasibility, and alignment with corporate culture.

Why do large companies launch calls for startups?

Large companies launch calls for startups to stimulate and accelerate innovation. According to a study by 500 Startups and INSEAD, 68% of the top 100 companies in the Forbes Global 500 continuously collaborate with startups. These collaborations are essential to remain competitive and foster growth.

What is a call for startups?

A call for startups is an initiative or invitation extended by an organization to seek innovative solutions, collaborations, or partnerships from emerging entrepreneurial ventures. This proactive outreach aims to identify promising startups that can address specific challenges, contribute to industry advancements, or align with the organization’s strategic objectives.

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