Gorillas Can Dance: Lessons from Microsoft and Other Corporations on Partnering with Start-ups

Faced with disruption brought about by digitalization, multinational corporations are realizing the value of partnering with external actors―including start-ups. However, while established corporations and start-ups do have complementary capabilities that could result in win-win collaboration, they often find that developing productive partnerships is not straightforward. The very thing that attracts them to each other – their significant differences – also makes it difficult to work together. Therefore, the partnering process must be approached not only enthusiastically but thoughtfully, by addressing these systemic asymmetries through focusing on the three pillars of synergy, interface, and exemplar.

In this book, drawing upon over a decade of research in multiple locations – including China, German, India, Israel, Kenya, South Africa, UK and US – CEIBS Professor of International Business and Strategy Shameen Prashantham provides guidance on how corporations and start-ups can build mutual beneficial partnerships. Using examples such as Microsoft and several others including AB InBev, Bayer, BMW, Coca Cola, IBM, Intel, Nissan (Infiniti), SAP, Unilever and Walmart, amongst others, Gorillas Can Dance illuminates the “why”, “how”, and  “where” of corporation-start-up partnering. Readers will learn that to succeed in the age of digital disruption, companies need to develop entrepreneurial, collaborative, and global mind-sets.

Order your copy here (available September 2021).



“It is imperative for the larger organizations to partner effectively with the more nimble start-ups to help create a better world for all. This book has some great insights on the how.”

– Paul Polman, Former CEO, Unilever

“For over five years, I have been more than a close observer of how Professor Prashantham has transformed his skills and global perspective into a fruitful outcome in both research and teaching. I am also a witness of how he, as a typical CEIBS professor, has made a deep dive in China as an Indian British national to become a top-notch expert in Chinese enterprises management practices and theories. Therefore, on top of academic management knowledge, this book is also a must-read on the perspective of MNCs and start-ups in China which is solution-based and forward-thinking.”

– Yuan Ding, Vice President and Dean, CEIBS

“Professor Prashantham has studied Microsoft’s pioneering partnerships with start-ups for many years in advanced and emerging markets. His thought leadership in Gorillas Can Dance provides actionable insights on corporate-start-up collaboration for companies that want to be entrepreneurial and innovative.”

– James Chou, CEO, Microsoft for Start-ups – North Asia

Position: Associate Dean, MBA Programme Director and Professor of International Business and Strategy