ESPN, PepsiCo, Billboard, and American Express Talk Partnering with Startups

It is no secret that finding a big company to work with can give a startup a boost that lands them more business and credibility. No matter how novel a platform or technology is, when a major client or partner comes onboard the market takes more notice.

Startup Weekend brought together a panel of executives from American Express, PepsiCo, ESPN, and Billboard to Microsoft’s New York offices last week to discuss what they look for in potential partners. Whether to acquire new ideas or help position technology to reach a wider audience, these brands said they are eager to work with startups—if they have the right stuff.

Michael Bayle, senior vice president and general manager of ESPN Mobile, said startups can offer expertise that may fall outside of larger companies’ main body of work. His company, for example, turned to Foursquare to take on a function ESPN had only dabbled in before. “We used to have an application called Passport to check in across venues and stadiums, but we realized that wasn’t our core competency,” he said.

ESPN Mobile worked with Foursquare to create a way for users see the lineup of teams or performers, with information supplied by ESPN, scheduled at the venues. Bayle said his company also made its API more readily available to developers starting at this year’s South by Southwest (SXSW) to encourage more collaboration. “We try to make other [companies] successful by using our data, our content, and all the rights we’ve acquired,” he said, which can include photos and video footage. ESPN Mobile outsources work to about a dozen companies to help create apps he said.

ESPN is also interested in the “second-screen” phenomenon, he said, which is a trend in the media world to leverage additional mobile platforms to reach the television audience. “There so many people using mobile while watching sports,” he said, “so you see a fair amount of investment in companies like GetGlue, Viggle, and IntoNow, which was purchased by Yahoo.” Bayle said ESPN is exploring … Next Page »

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