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Ecosystem Leaders

Episode 76

August 29, 2019

#76 Shirley Ashkenazi: 3 Ways to Create Synergy Between 2 Companies

Shirley Ashkenazi, Director of Strategic Alliances and Business Development at Kryon, an innovative RPA (robotic process automation) company. We talked about how strategic alliances are everything to startups.

Where can you take your startup from 18 employees to over 150 in just three years?

(Not to mention nine offices in seven countries.)

The startup nation: Israel, of course.

On today’s episode of Alliance Aces, I’m joined by Shirley Ashkenazi, Director of Strategic Alliances and Business Development at Kryon, an innovative RPA (robotic process automation) company. We talked about how strategic alliances are everything to startups.

“Very quickly we understood that in order to grow, we had to have a very strong alliance team from a skill perspective and from management commitment,” Shirley explained.

How to Pursue Strategic Alliances

When Shirley joined Kryon, they had very few partnerships. So she spent a bit of time ensuring that everyone in the company understood the importance of alliances.

Because you can’t have successful relationships without management commitment--as well as buy-ins from the entire company.

Products, sales, C-suite. “Everyone should be aligned on the importance of the relationship that you’re trying to grow,” she said.

So that’s step one: companywide buy-in.

Step two is to have 50% of company revenue to come from founders.

Yes, 50%.

“For a relatively small company focused on AI and not around services, this is the only way we can grow,” Shirley said. “This is how we actually managed to grow from 18 to 150. There is no other way to do that.”

Partnerships just can’t be secondary if the company is to grow.

Shirley noticed a correspondence between RPA and strategic alliances.

  • In RPA, optimization is continuous.
  • In strategic alliances, optimization is also continuous.

“Sometimes you need to realize that relationships don't work, and it is what it is,” Shirley said.

In the search for strategic alliances, not all of them will be successful. “When you're looking at strategic alliances, it's really a collaborative partnership,” Shirley said.

Tactics are simply closing a deal together, whereas a strategic alliance is a win-win for both collaborators.

Step three? It has to do with trust, not revenue.

“Instead of focusing on making money, you need to change the focus on building trust,” she said. “It takes time, and it’s involved.”

But that’s the aspect of strategic alliances that matters most.

When you take the time to convince a partner why you’re better, it’s sometimes not the technical side. Sometimes it’s your enthusiasm and commitment.

P.S. Here’s the moment when being a smaller company can help you win. You can act more quickly than someone bigger.

Bottom line. Build trust, and revenue will follow.

Creating Synergy Between 2 Companies

If that trust is established, and you’ve got a partnership started--well, what then?

Shirley said to focus on three things.


This usually means the product and the technology integration level.


This is the joint go-to-market that you’re building together with your alliance.


The how is the joint sales engagement.

“The joint sales engagement is sometimes the most challenging,” Shirley said. For one, it spans the globe, and everyone does things a little differently per region.

For another, it just won’t work without trust. (Yes, back to trust again.)

In RPA, most alliances aren’t exclusive. “So you need to bear in mind that your founder actually has a choice. It can go to one of your competitors,” Shirley said.

That’s the difference between someone in a partnership and someone in an alliance. “It means you will be his first choice,” she said.

Pricing isn’t the thing that will determine alliance. It’s the history of how you’ve managed things with that partner.

  • How you respond in a crisis.
  • Whether you went the last mile.
  • Your methods of communication.
  • If you can agree on accountability.

That goes way beyond price. “It's a lot of dimensions,” Shirley said.

Apply Your Empathy

Before she came to Kryon, Shirley worked for nearly 20 years in different roles in software life cycle development.

“The majority was actually being on customer sites, and this helped me to build empathy to customer needs and the struggle of how a vendor is perceived from the customer perspective,” Shirley said.

She uses that empathy today in managing strategic alliances. “When you deal with big organizations, this is actually an advantage because you understand the level of expectations, how to communicate, and how the system is working,” she added.

Globally, the system is going to be working very, very slowly.

Get prepared to do the same things over and over--without getting frustrated.

“I came from this organization, so I know how they work. I know what they can do and what they cannot do,” she said. “This opened lots of doors for us.”

Now, new Kryon employees can’t even imagine what the company looked like three years ago.

In addition to empathy, you should try to bring energy. “If you are passionate about what you're doing, then it's contagious, right? They want to be part of it,” Shirley said.

Listen to the podcast here.

To hear this episode, and many more like it, you can subscribe to the Alliance Aces Podcast, or visit our dedicated Alliance Aces page.

To contact the host, Chip Rodgers, with topic ideas, suggest a guest, or join the conversation about alliances, he can be reached by: