When building a company, acquiring a user or closing a customer one at a time can seem like competing in a marathon while knee deep in mud — making progress in inches, barely able to catch a breath, all the while unable to comprehend exactly how far you are from the finish line.

For entrepreneurs, a partnership with an industry giant can seem like, at the very least, a temporary reprieve from the struggle, and at the very best, a sure fire short-cut to success.  Of course, just like everything else in the startup business, game changing partnerships are few and far between, and even those require just as much work as running a marathon in the mud.

I’ve been on both sides of this equation — as an AT&T executive, partnering with startups with as little as five employees and as a barely-funded entrepreneur, partnering with industry behemoths. I’ve also experienced the entire spectrum of outcomes. The issue has always been that there are only a few ways to succeed and a hundred ways to fail.

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