by Edward Qualtrough

How startups can work with CIOs and large enterprise – Tips from JLL Chief Information Officer Chris Zissis

Jun 14, 2017
IT StrategyProfessional Services

Chief Information Officer at property management powerhouse JLL, Chris Zissis, recently spoke to CIO UK about empowering innovation, digital transformation, executive support and working with emerging tech startups. [Also read: How CIOs can work with startups]

Zissis and JLL started working with machine learning startup Leverton in 2016 and in his discussion with CIO UK, offered advice to startups about how to sell themselves to CIOs and large corporates.

[JLL CIO Chris Zissis interview – Empowering business innovation and digitisation]

1. Be clear with your objectives

Zissis said that being completely transparent about what startups want – whether that is investment, growth potential or another reason – is the best policy to build trust. CIOs will ask, Zissis explained: “Do you really have a product or service? Is it built on a scalable basis? Are you really looking for a means to sell your product or idea or are you looking for investment?”

Zissis said that JLL was probably not the kind of organisation to invest in a young organisation just so the startup can become bigger. “My advice is, be very clear from the outset – literally the get-go about what your objective and desired outcome is,” Zissis said. “So if your objective and desired outcome is talking to a CIO for investment and so they can grow bigger, startups need to tell you that from the outset.”

2. Show you are not a risk

Zissis said that working with Leverton needed to be a partnership between the organisations, and that startups need to appreciate the governance frameworks and environments that larger corporates operate in.

If the startup has a great product but needs it better informed to apply to the enterprise world, Zissis said of the relationship with Leverton, then conversations and relationships are much easier so the companies can work on the project together. “I do not have a massive balance sheet to invest in,” Zissis said.

“That little pivot point for me is key; that’s the honesty factor from the outset. And if honesty isn’t there you figure it out very quickly because we make investment decisions based on a delegated level of authority.

“There is no CIO in this world, unless they have a pot of money or two, who can invest in something that’s risky. We go through a process of approval and governance like every other corporate does. And startups need to understand that, and if they don’t understand it I think they get frustrated.”

3. Sustainability, not pace

Zissis said that sustainability and adding value was higher up the agenda for CIOs and corporates than moving at a really significant pace.

“I have found the new incumbents are just far too eager to move at pace,” Zissis said. “And the pace often outweighs value.

“I’m not saying don’t move at speed because IT departments are often accused of not moving at speed of the business – but we require sustainability.”