The Secret Sauce to Success: How to Navigate a Partnership Landscape

Our entire industry is based on partnerships, and any successful venture is dependent on a cohesive synergy between those partners.  A mutually beneficial partner dynamic can either provide the “secret sauce” to success, or conversely, an “express train” to disaster. Archna Sahay, Director of Entrepreneurship for the City of Philadelphia aims to bridge an otherwise unlikely partnership between credible “anchor institutions” with nimble startups.

To become a successful startup, companies need flexible licensing, investors, and most importantly, access. In a city with the largest medical ecosystem, this is no easy task. But Archna has a unique approach to help provide them with the resources they need: post a pilot.

It’s a seemingly simple process. She reaches out to the established, well-funded organizations and asks them directly what types of problems they’re experiencing. The anchor institutions then provides their needs and Archna will relay them to companies within the tech community that match the criteria they are looking for. In the end, the anchor institutions will have a pool of impressive startups to choose from–providing the future-forward thinking required to balance an anchor institution’s heritage and wisdom.

Some of the companies that have evolved under Archna’s leadership include PGW (Philadelphia Gas and Water), Lia (flushable pregnancy test), Dreamit, and Jeff Design.

One would think that the benefits from these partnerships are more significant for the startups. But surprisingly, anchor institutions find opportunity in creating a new culture and discovering that the solutions they were looking for were in their backyard. A startup, by nature, is an incubator for innovation. And when you pair that with the financial prowess of an anchor institution, with the right chemistry, the possibilities are endless.


Written by Jake Rosenbaum and Leanna Stein