Presented by Oracle for Startups

“Innovation” is such an exciting concept, it’s a shame the mainstream conversation about it has gotten so boring. My Twitter feed is an endless scroll of promises about the next-best, game-changing technology that’s going to be “über of” whatever industry. The buzzwords alone are enough to make my eyes glaze over, which is a shame because the startups and founders emerging today, no longer beholden to the Silicon Valley zip code, have fresh approaches to solving the world’s pressing problems.

So with the global proliferation of thought-provoking solutions in fields like artificial intelligence, blockchain, sustainability, and diversity, how do we overcome innovation fatigue and remember why we love startups and their technology in the first place?

Here’s my take: innovation is only as exciting as its application. Sure, it’s amazing that a robot can reliably beat a human at Go, but it doesn’t help a marketing team hone their quarterly goals or make a manufacturing floor manager’s day any easier. And after the Hindenburg-scale Theranos disaster, a wildly inspiring pitch just isn’t enough to catch the eye of big customers. New tech can only be as successful as its best (and most proven, Elizabeth) use case. The secret sauce for modern startups is how they can deliver value to established businesses and their customers.

This is no easy task. In addition to competing with a crowded field of peers, startups are also up against longstanding brands with powerful market share. The startups who are going to win are those who learn to complement their enterprise competitors in the mutual interest of their customers.

Boston-based tail-spend management platform Fairmarkit understands that startup ingenuity wins when it enhances enterprise tech. Cofounder Tarek Alaruri had Oracle customers in mind when he created a complete platform that uses machine learning to help customers save up to 32% on procurement. “Our partnership with Oracle has not only played an integral role in our growth as a startup, but it has allowed customers we share with Oracle to seamlessly add tail spend management to their overall ERP ecosystem,” Alaruri said. “Together, we are collaboratively solving big problems for our customers.”

Businesses at the enterprise level (not known for their agility) are quickly catching on to the fact that startups (known to handle quick pivots) can offer solutions that integrate and complement their existing suites. If a startup lands an enterprise contract, they get revenue, runway, and credibility. In return, the enterprise has an innovative solution to brag about and share with their customers. The relationship creates a virtuous cycle of innovation, with the customer as the biggest benefactor.

All well and good in theory, but startups can look like a newborn fawn on shaky legs to an enterprise that is notoriously squeamish about risk. The secret to making this relationship work lies in the fundamentals. Startups should know exactly what problems they solve and how, and they need to be able to do it reliably. One way startups can manage this is to build their enterprise applications on a reliable, secure cloud that passes muster for a nervous enterprise.

Infrastructure — like that offered by Oracle Cloud’s IaaS and PaaS — is right-sized for startups, with security that even a staunchly traditional enterprise can’t sneeze at. Startups are even discovering that Oracle Cloud is outperforming competitors. Cofounder Guy Mounier of AptivIO, a startup focusing on autonomous sales development, was surprised by his experience with Oracle Cloud. “With Oracle we have been pleasantly surprised by the robustness, scalability, and reliability,” he said. “We process billions of data points daily and we can’t afford any latency or downtime. Oracle Cloud gives us the assurance we need to deliver value to our customers and to keep innovating with confidence.”

Startup founders are busy enough without adding “get enterprise ready” to their packed to-do lists. Sometimes it makes sense to partner up with someone who already gets it, someone with product expertise and a customer rolodex that will transform a startup from a shaky fawn to a unicorn.

Oracle for Startups offers opportunities to build on a scalable cloud for free, without taking equity. But free cloud is just the beginning of a relationship that offers connections to global exposure, mentorship, and customers. It’s open to any B2B or B2C startup, but it’s not for everyone. Taking full advantage of a relationship with a corporate partner means investing time and resources in your product and your business.

But the end results are worth getting excited about.

Jason Williamson is Vice President, Oracle for Startups.

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