Forming mutually-beneficial strategic partnerships is one of the best ways to grow a business, especially when you’re starting up lean. Yet it’s one of the most difficult and time-consuming tasks a business owner is faced with. The process involves identifying where synergy is possible with brands, persuading relevant brands to partner with your business, and then executing a strategy where all parties benefit. This process can take months or even years. Launched today, a new Sydney-based startup Collabosaurus not only wants to make this process easier through match-making technology, but foster a culture of collaboration in Australia.
Collabosaurus was founded by Manly-based entrepreneur Jessica Ruhfus, who has extensive experience in small business marketing as well as fashion and lifestyle PR. She knew all too well how fragmented Australia’s business ecosystem is. Australia actually ranks towards the bottom of countries implementing effective collaborations. But the idea for Collabosaurus spawned from personal frustration when Ruhfus was faced with the task of sourcing, negotiating and securing valuable strategic alliances for clients she was working with at a previous company. At the same time, she knew how valuable strategic partnerships with like-minded companies can be; it can provide opportunities to access new resources, expertise or market segment, and boost a business’ competitive advantage.
What’s critical to understand about strategic partnerships is that it shouldn’t be self-serving; rather, a strategic partnership is about synergistic, mutually-beneficial value exchanges. PwC describes a strategic partnership as involving “some shape of formal agreement between two (a bilateral partnership) or more (a network partnership) parties that have agreed to share finance, skills, information and/or other resources in the pursuit of common goals”. Because a strategic partnership involves ‘sharing’ – usually of assets, whether tangible or intangible – it needs to be approached carefully.
Many startups and SMEs find it extremely hard and time consuming to source and secure effective strategic brand partnerships because it requires sector knowledge, established connections, and plenty of prospecting and cold calling, often with little return. Added to that, many business owners approach the partnership selfishly – failing to highlight how the other party will benefit from the partnership.
This is where Collabosaurus comes in, significantly reducing the time and resources needed to source one-off or ongoing effective brand partnerships through its matchmaking algorithm. Businesses of all shapes and sizes can set up a project and the software will match them with potential, valuable strategic partners.
Businesses that are interested in using Collabosaurus can sign up for free at Collabosaurus.com. The user is then invited to enter details about the type of collaboration they’re interested in securing, their target market, and marketing assets, such as social media following, excess product or email database.
The types of collaborative projects to choose from include events, product collaboration, charitable initiatives, sourcing products for competitions, or users can select the ‘open to ideas’ option. Based on the project details provided, Collabosaurus presents a list of relevant potential partners who are also using the platform. This is conducted anonymously, meaning that no brand names are projects are accessible until connections are made and accepted. This not only prevents users from being hassled, but also allows account managers to represent multiple brands safely on their behalf and removes any assumptions or fear around sourcing and securing a partnership.
Users can then send requests to connect with the brands they feel are a good match. If the interest is reciprocated by the selected brands, they can then accept the request to connect. The two brands are then introduced to each other and are free to discuss a strategic partnership or collaboration.
Ruhfus says, “The great thing about Collabosaurus is that it breaks down the barriers of business size, budget and location, which often get in the way of valuable collaborations. Brands using the platform can use their marketing assets, such as social media influence or a fantastic contact list, as currency, meaning a huge budget isn’t required to gain traction when implementing a partnership or to take advantage of valuable marketing channels.”
“The partnerships enabled by Collabosaurus are a cost-effective and painless way to reach new audiences and grow your business, as well as gain publicity by aligning with events, charities, or campaigns that are relevant to your offerings. If you’re a new smoothie company, for instance, the platform could match you with a yoga event looking for a caterer, which helps extend your reach. Similarly, beauty product retailers might get matched with relevant events where they can sell their products or put them in a show bag. In other scenarios, you can run joint online competitions through social media to gain even more targeted exposure.”
Collabosaurus operates on a three-tiered subscription model. The ‘beginner’ option is priced at $30 per month, and allows users to create one active project and send five requests to connect every month. Next up is the $60 per month subscription, targeting small businesses and startups. This option allows for three active projects and 20 invitations to connect per month. The most expensive membership option is priced at $90 per month and targets larger businesses like PR, marketing and events agencies. This option allows for unlimited active projects and connections.
Further down the track, Ruhfus wants to introduce private accounts, particularly for bigger brands who want to get exposure in a new market segment. Private account will be managed by Ruhfus who will source and secure partnerships for the brand.
Ruhfus also wants on running marketing workshops because “strategic partnerships should be part of a bigger marketing plan or campaign”. She plans on roping in industry experts to run those workshops, in addition to leading some herself.
Collabosaurus has been able to attract 250 signups in its pre-launch period. Ruhfus said that the current member base are mostly interested in referral marketing and cross-promotion, and a lot of the existing projects are events-based. Ruhfus’ goal is to reach 8,000 users and expand into international markets in the next 12 months.
“We want to break down the barriers to strategic collaborating even further to facilitate international collaborations, and our eyes are set on the USA, UK and parts of Europe. If a UK brand wanted traction in the Australian market and vice-versa, Collabosaurus would be a logical place to start,” says Ruhfus.
At the moment, Ruhfus is targeting businesses that operate in the beauty, fashion, lifestyle, food and beverage and venue sectors, saying that product based businesses would derive the most value from Collabosaurus. That said, she feels businesses operating in other industries like technology would also benefit from the platform as it grows and achieves a diverse user base.
Ruhfus says a Collabosaurus mobile application is currently in the works. If it’s anything like the web-based platform, it will be simple and sleek. Not only is the interface visually appealing, the user experience also seamless from signup to connection. Although Ruhfus is the mastermind behind Collabosaurus, she’s not a coder and had to outsource the development.
Her cousin Michael Ruhfus, who was involved with Freelancer.com during the company’s inception, has a large network of developers whom he recommended. Ruhfus ended up choosing Thom Vincent from Do A Back Flip, who currently works at Nexus Notes, a Sydney-based startup currently participating in Startmate’s accelerator programme. Ruhfus is happy her vision was brought to life with such accuracy.
Collabosaurus was also able to secure investor interest early in the game, though Ruhfus is unable to disclose the name of the investor. She was able to confirm that the investor put $90,000 into the business, though Ruhfus contributed a significant amount of funds from her own hip pocket.
On a final note, Ruhfus stressed that the platform is not just for small businesses and startups looking to grow their business by partnering with resourced brands; it’s also for bigger brands to leverage and showcase the innovative products offered by smaller businesses.
Businesses can sign up to Collabosaurus for free today at www.collabosaurus.com, though the platform’s match-making capabilities is due to go live on Wednesday 8th of April.