Strategic partnerships are always a smart way to grow your business faster and expand into new markets. Even smarter is to look beyond conventional or expected opportunities. To create entirely new products, keep employees happy, or achieve ambitious long-term goals, it pays to get creative about whom you team up with--and even to look far afield of your own industry.
Here are four pairs of companies that recently reached outside of their sectors to build mutually beneficial partnerships.
1. Meta and EssilorLuxottica
On October 28, Facebook officially announced it was reorganizing under a new parent company, Meta. But it first offered a glimpse into the metaverse--its planned virtual and augmented reality social network--over a month earlier with the release of Ray-Ban Stories, a line of high-tech glasses and sunglasses developed in partnership with Ray-Ban parent EssilorLuxottica. Each pair comes with a built-in camera, microphone, and speaker array, enabling wearers to take pictures and shoot brief videos for social media.
Getting consumer buy-in for a line of smart glasses is a huge hurdle, especially following the failure of the much-hyped Google Glass. Such wearables devices can't just be novel, they also need to have the cool factor. That's where the partnership with Luxottica came in. The eyewear giant brought its strength in fashion and design to complement Meta's consumer experience and software expertise. "If we want the AR vision to come to fruition and for glasses and wearables of this type to become a mainstream product," says Ankit Brahmbhatt, lead project manager of Meta's Reality Labs, "It's going to be because of these kinds of collaborations."
2. Bumble and the Delicious Hospitality Group
Bumble, the company behind the popular dating and networking app, has long been interested in building offline spaces for its users to meet. Its first such venture came in 2017, with a temporary pop-up space in Manhattan's Soho neighborhood called Bumble Hive NYC. This year, the company announced it would be opening a permanent fixture just a few blocks away: A cafe and wine bar called Bumble Brew.
The project was launched in partnership with the Delicious Hospitality Group, which operates high-end restaurants around New York City such as Pasquale Jones and Charlie Bird. "Given that Bumble Brew is an extension of our Bumble Hive pop-ups, creating a space in partnership with Delicious Hospitality Group was a natural next step," says Julia Smith Caulfield, Bumble's head of brand partnerships. "Not only does the company oversee a group of highly acclaimed restaurants and businesses, but we've long admired their unique partnerships and out-of-the-box ideas." Delicious Hospitality Group is running the day-to-day operations of the cafe, which opened October 21.
3. Microsoft and Code Republic
Luxury handbag designer Code Republic launched its partnership with the tech giant after a Microsoft executive visited one of its flagship stores in Australia in 2019. New York City-based Code Republic had designed a bag fit to one of Microsoft's Surface tablets, and the impromptu site visit left the executive excited about the prospect of developing high-end accessories for Microsoft devices. Today, Code Republic offers handbags sized to the entire line of Surface products.
"If you look at consumer tech bags, the majority of them have, unfortunately, been designed primarily with the male consumer in mind," says Code Republic founder and CEO Anthea Rowan. "And if you look at the handbag market, nothing is designed specifically for tech--not just the pockets and functionality, but even the strength and durability that's required." Rowan says the bags have been well-received by professional women who have chafed at using male-focused shoulder bags. Products developed for the Microsoft partnership now account for roughly half of her business.
4. &Pizza and Lyft
Michael Lastoria, CEO and co-founder of &Pizza, is known for advocating for better worker treatment and a higher minimum wage. In 2019 he launched a bold initiative to help employees of the Washington, D.C.-based chain, partnering with ride-hailing app Lyft to offer them free and discounted rides.
"It started off with late-night [rides] because a number of our shops are open until 4 in the morning," Lastoria told Inc. in a recent Real Talk streaming event. "You're looking at leaving at 5 or 5:30 in the morning. There's no train, and the bus schedules are incredibly limited. And so we started to solve the need of how we get people home safely."
The partnership was a big hit with employees when it began, but its value really became apparent during the pandemic. Lastoria says the policy made the difference in keeping staff engaged. "We thrived," he says, adding that &Pizza went through two rounds of financing during the pandemic. "The people that came to work for the company showed up, they gave a damn, they dug in, and we delivered results."