Corporate-startup partnering: Exploring attention dynamics and relational outcomes in asymmetric settings

S Prashantham, Anoop Madhok

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Research Summary: Startups that partner concurrently with a large corporation must compete for the latter's attention. We extend the attention-based view from an intraorganizational to an interorganizational context, exploring how startups differ in the amount of attention they receive, their actions to attract and sustain attention, and the impact of attention dynamics on the relational outcome of the partnership. Our research uncovers two separate contests for attention involving corporate and divisional managers, highlighting the distributed nature of attention. Reflecting these, our findings reveal how startups' responsiveness to the respective cognitive schemas and corresponding stimuli of corporate and divisional managers is critical to understanding their distinct relational trajectories and disparate outcomes. Our focus on attention is complementary to the focus on trust that has hitherto dominated research on relational dynamics. Managerial Summary: Startups partner with large corporations to access needed complementary resources. However, truly benefiting from such partnerships is challenging and requires them to attract as well as sustain the latter's attention. Our study reveals two contests for attention: one with corporate managers tasked with running a startup partnering initiative and the other with divisional managers in business units with whom actual commercial joint activity is forged. These two sets of managers have different priorities (schemas) that result in differences in the nature and amount of attention they pay to startups' actions (stimuli). Startups seeking corporate partnerships would do well to recognize this heterogeneity within large corporations and accordingly manage the attention–attraction process through suitable partner-centric behaviors. On their part, large corporations need to be aware of and sensitive to the challenges such disparate schema of corporate and divisional managers pose for successful partnering outcomes as the relationship transitions from the early to later stages.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)770-801
Number of pages32
JournalStrategic Entrepreneurship Journal
Issue number4
Early online date13 Sept 2023
Publication statusPublished - 2023


  • Alliance dynamics
  • Attention-based view
  • Cooperative strategy
  • Corporate-startup partnering
  • Entrepreneurship
  • Innovation management
  • Interfirm collaboration
  • Relational capabilities

Indexed by

  • FT
  • ABDC-A
  • SSCI


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