Both phrases are vague. They refer typically to a more complex deal or relationship, although nowadays a “strategic partner” may mean simply an important customer.

A “joint venture” may involve R&D that is outsourced, or a development or design partnerships, or a joint marketing arrangements, or a major investment accompanied by joint marketing or joint development, to name but a few.

A JV example from my career: the CEO of a publicly quoted US manufacturer with multiple lines of business had a knack for identifying the future. His company had changed its spots several times, with uniform success. He met a couple of Europeans with an idea, and loved it. I don’t know if they pitched him, or if they met at a conference, but it became a joint venture.

They would pursue development of their idea in their country, and his company would finance the work and own the resulting IP. At this stage, this was a design and development JV, set up by contract. The CEO’s company’s investment was not yet high, and he had established himself as its owner if the product worked. If not, he walked.

Development went ahead and was fruitful. The CEO’s manufacturing company started selling products incorporating the JV results (JV Products), and they sold like hot cakes. Time to upgrade the JV!

The US company formed a subsidiary in the Europeans’ own country. The Europeans contributed the results of their work to the subsidiary, and the subsidiary started paying them a very decent amount. From the CEO’s point of view, this upgrade gave him a lot of benefits, not the least of which was locking in the Europeans.

His competitors were starting to realize the value of this new product line, and the CEO needed to ensure that his Europeans would stay loyal. Ultimately, that’s a question of cash, but having their own subsidiary to manage, at the US company’s expense, felt very good to these Europeans.

The product line which they brought to the US CEO’s company became the company’s principal product line for many years. Now that is a successful JV!

Each JV is unique. I will work through your vision with you, help you structure your deal and negotiate it, and craft the contracts that implement it.

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