MBP New Gap Chapter 5.5: PSP liftoff
How to get potential strategic partner conversations off the ground
If you haven’t already - get the second edition of the MBP here.
I’m getting the same question over, and over, and over.
We’re going to answer it here.
It turns out there’s a gap in the Magic Box Paradigm book. It’s between Chapters 5 Filling the funnel and Chapter 6 How to build a PBI. The book jumps from sparking conversations with potential strategic partners (“PSPs”) straight to building partner big ideas (“PBIs”).
What the book doesn’t cover is how to get PSP conversations off the ground in the right way. Essentially the Zero to One of PBI formation.
For now we’ll call this gap chapter: Chapter 5.5 PSP liftoff.
Plot the future
You’ve secured the epic intro to the key person at a top PSP. How do you start the conversation in a way that best sets up the creation of a powerful PBI?
Let’s start with a visual. Imagine you could create a graph of the key aspects of how the world will be in a future state. A grid of how the world will look, say, five years from now. It’s probably more like a multi-sided object, but given that we’re working in two dimensions here, we’ll keep our thinking confined to a two dimensional space. On the axes of this grid are the key drivers of the future state. The axes may be new customer needs, emerging technologies, looming regulatory changes, shifts in society, economic pressures, or a blend of all of them (and more). These forces are creating a big new reality.
You’re ahead of the curve and the product you’re working on anticipates this emerging reality. The PSP also has a set of offerings that are highly relevant to the emerging reality. To frame the new reality grid we’ve selected three major market forces (just examples): Economic Pressure, Emerging Technology, New Risk Factors. Your new startup is well positioned close to the center of these market forces - but is just the start - it’s one box in a giant grid of opportunity.
The new reality grid has 100 squares. You’ve filled in one. The PSP is bigger and has six squares. Notice how easy it is to focus on your and their squares. There’s substance to them. They’re bright. They jump out to you. It would be very easy to center the conversation on the stuff that already is, and not on the stuff that is yet to be. That’s the trap.
What you want to do is set up the conversation to focus, as much as possible, on the white space. The PBI is going to be formed from uncolored boxes. Some number of those boxes are going to be the shape of the portion of the future space the PSP wants to occupy. There are currently 7 filled in boxes and between the PSP and you. There are 93 other boxes to be discussed! There’s much more to discuss about what isn’t yet defined than there is to discuss about what is. The blank boxes are gold!
The PBI is going to be bigger than both of you, yet you’ll both influence its formulation (note the new squares are purple - the blend of red and blue) and you’ll both play central roles in its manifestation. But you are at the absolute center of the new area.
Linking to market forces
As you are introduced to the PSP it’s inevitable that you’re going to talk about yourself. But how are you going to talk about yourself? You’re going to talk about yourself in the context of the major market forces at the edge of the grid. Then you’re going to build the grid and locate yourself in it.
You: “Our efforts sit in a much larger context. First, there’s major economic pressure on XYZ. Second, the emergence of ABC technology has created tremendous potential. Third, with these new economic pressures and this emerging technology we see significant new risks…we’re addressing these by…”
This approach both enables you to set the stage for a thoughtful discussion of your current square, but to also expand the conversation to encompass their six squares, and then the other 93. The more you link your efforts to market forces the more the grid expands.
The conversation cycle
In the liftoff phase of the PSP conversation you’re going to have to give to get. You’ve likely been introduced to this PSP in the context of what you’re working on today and if you’re too cagy it’ll be weird. So whereas you want to think of these early conversations as an exploration and take an interview mindset, you can’t just say nothing about yourself. If you walk in with