Joe Scarboro: Touchpaper

If startups have something you really want, I think a corporate should help them develop things like data and privacy policies. At the moment, they are not collaborative and will blanket screen startups based on these things.


The differences between start-ups and organisations. Joe set up Touchpaper, a non-profit that offers a toolkit to help start-ups and organisations work together. This is helping to create a standard for interaction that promotes innovation and could one day form the basis of an industry body.


He spent nine years working in the oil industry before moving into a CFO role within motorsport. This led to a transition into the world of tech start-ups at TouchClarity and later Omniture, which was bought out by Adobe. This change of direction made him reflect on the difference in cultures between corporations and startups, and resulted in him attending Silicon Drinkabout, a social event set up by the founder of Mind Candy.

What started as a casual meet up in a pub grew into 30 chapters around the world. 3Beards took the reins and added other events such as the Digital Sizzle Series. Joe became more involved and suggested they turn it into a business. He went on to set up Don’t Pitch Me Bro and Chew The Fat, sat on the board for Code Club (which was later merged with the Raspberry Pi Foundation) and ran a series of hackathons for the likes of Lloyds Bank and Unilever.

His experience working in Tech City and his position as CEO of The Bot Platform gave him a unique insight into the tech world, while also understanding the needs of large organisations. He knew that many corporations are already actively seeking links with agile startups to help them respond to changing consumer trends. Meanwhile, startups are also looking for corporate partners to turbocharge their success. But large corporate companies are complex – and inserting innovation is very difficult.


He set up Touchpaper. After speaking to researchers, Joe suggested a standard for interaction between the two. It would be useful for corporates to know they are not dealing with a three-person startup with no experience and it would help startups to realise they don’t have to complete a massive pack and agree to 90-day payment terms to work with a corporate on a £5k project.

Rules and processes exist in organisations for a reason, but it’s not always appropriate to apply a structure usually used in regular business to the area of innovation. Some corporations send out up to four legal contracts and arrange multiple meetings with different stakeholders without getting anywhere close to a commercial discussion, and these obstacles take up valuable time and resources for cash-strapped startups.

Touchpaper reduces the procurement process to just three months. The toolkit is changing the way organisations are working with startups by offering a guideline for elements such as strategy, communication and buy-in, engagement and decision making, procurement and legal. These guidelines also help to educate startups about when to push back and ask questions about terms and conditions. This promotes a much more open and flexible approach to partnerships – all of which encourages fast innovation without increasing risk.


The foundations are now in place and businesses can sign up to the toolkit online. Touchpaper gives them access to five papers for startups and five papers for organisations. Each paper provides areas that both parties need to consider, without offering a rigid approach. Change is happening, and Touchpaper is at the centre of transforming these relationships between corporations and startups.