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Hand in Hand

If you negotiate well, joining forces with a big firm can be the smart way to get your new product to market.

This story appears in the August 2003 issue of Entrepreneur. Subscribe »

Your innovative product could be just what a big company needs to boost flagging sales. They have the capital and the marketing expertise to turn your product into a winner. The secret lies in careful planning and smart negotiation."The perception these days is that there's a significant lack of capital for growth firms, so people are entering into bad deals," says Keith Styles, an attorney with Robins, Kaplan, Miller & Ciresi LLP in Washington, DC. Styles explains that although venture capital isn't flow-ing as freely, large companies still have a lot of money to invest in new products and technology. "It's still easier for a big company to buy new technology than develop it."

Styles contends David and Goliath don't have to fight. "The goal isn't to slay Goliath, but to make the giant perceive that he's won." Eventually, you may want to sell your brainchild to the giant-but not until it's gone further than you could have taken it and you've been fairly compensated. Rule No. 1, Styles says, is to make sure you control the technology. Work with your lawyer to get the patent or copyright secured. "You're not looking for them to take over your product," he explains. "You want their market expertise and their manufacturing expertise."

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