5 leading examples of corporate startup collaboration
“Startups are prioritising corporates who are serious about making deals happen” – Brent Hoberman, co-founder of lastminute.com.
The top tier of corporates in most sectors now have some form of corporate/startup collaboration. Market leading brands realise that they cannot sustain their position without it. Challenger brands need to keep up. At Go To Guy, we help brands of all sizes harness the power of startup collaboration. If you’re looking for motivation, here are our top 5 examples of leading corporate/startup collaboration.
The daddy of all startup collaboration schemes! Unilever live and breathe the principles of corporate startup collaboration. So much so, they launch the Unilever Foundry in 2014, the company’s initiative to formalize all tech-facing projects, and create a “pitch-to-pilot” system for startups looking to work with a marketing giant. But it didn’t start here! Unilever had created their own startup of sorts a few years earlier. Taking a ‘lean startup’ approach; they started small, tested, and iterated. Before the Foundry, they invested in a small team who worked with accelerators such as Collider, creating a funnel of startup pitches in to the operating business. What followed was a mentoring scheme matching corporate team members from different disciplines with startups. Value propositions were refined, relationships cemented, and pilot projects turned from talk to reality. Win win for both Unilever and the startups.
Today, Unilever have a superb ecosystem which tops & tails there FMCG business. Whilst the Foundry nurtures startups in to propositions mature enough to be tested in the commercial business, Unilever Ventures is the funding arm that can supercharge startups whose pilots prove to add value to the corporate business. Delivering the kind of growth potential most startups never achieve. Once such startup that has followed this successful path with Unilever is Discuss.io.
Startups most likely to been seen coming out of the Foundry: Marketing & Advertising #MAdtech
2 DC Thompson
DC Thompson is a media business and a family-owned one at that. DC Thompson had the foresight to set up DC Thompson Ventures bringing over 100 years of entrepreneurial investment and operational expertise to the startup community. DC Thomson Ventures is the venture capital arm of the company, focusing on early and later stage investment across the digital media, education, advertising and retail markets. Examples of successful DC Thompson backed startups include Edinburgh-based Edtech startup CogBooks.
However, in 2014, DC Thompson made a further commitment to the startup ecosystem in the UK. Based around an objective to engage the start-up community, they embarked on establishing a number of valuable partnerships. They joined forces with Cisco and UCL to set up an incubator for start-up businesses in London’s TechCity. IDEALondon provides tailored support and strategic acceleration programmes to nurture start-ups with successes such as Snap Fashion. DC Thomson Ventures is also an investor in Seedcamp.
Startups most likely to attract DC Thompson’s support: Digital Innovation
3 John Lewis
Another High Street brand backing startups via the accelerator model is John Lewis via their Jlab initiative. Now in its second year, Jlab specialises in helping startups with innovative retail solutions. They look for new technology that enables John Lewis to aggregate data and gain new insights, create seamless omni channel payment journeys, or solutions that enable a smart workforce to deliver even better customer service. Each chosen startup gets a £20k seed investment, mentoring & office space whilst the winning solution at the end of the 12 week programme receives £100k follow on funding. The winner from 2015 was Peeple. As an innovator within Jlab’s smarter homes category, Peeple manufactures software for small cameras that can be attached to existing peep-holes in doors. The product uses home Wi-Fi to alert homeowners when there is activity outside their front door.
Applications open on 16th March for the next Jlab intake.
Startups most likely to attract John Lewis’s support: Retail solutions
Diageo make alcoholic drinks and an obvious objective is to sell as many of them as possible each year. However, Diageo operate in a regulated market. Diageo cannot be seen to promote irresponsible drinking. So, Diageo have launched a global innovation programme to develop applications that supports just the opposite, responsible drinking.
And so Diageo Technology Ventures was born in 2014. “Tech startups & entrepreneurs are truly defining disruptive innovation, driven by an irrepressible appetite to experiment and a willingness to take risks” said Diageo Chief Marketing Officer Syl Saller. Being able to take risks is often something that large public businesses shy away from due to focusing on shareholder value, cultural limitations, and compliance. Diageo Technology Ventures mitigates the risk, yet still benefits from new technologies by accessing this world, specifically to solve some of their biggest business challenges.
In return, startups get to work with some of the world’s leading brands. Delivering pilot projects, working collaboratively across multiple internal functions and leverage the global reach to scale-up faster.
Since the initial launch to focus on responsible drinking, Diageo have expanded the briefs, and the annual pilot budget of $100,000. Recent briefs included looking for startup innovation to help combat counterfeit, and introducing ‘smart packaging’ to the benefit of the supply chain and customer experience.
Syl commented, “This programme will also further build our internal ability to move with pace and provoke a genuine entrepreneurial mind-set in our pursuit of breakthrough innovation. It underlines our fundamental belief that, through partnerships with forward-thinking startups and entrepreneurs, we will deliver competitive advantage for our business.”
Startups most likely to attract Diageo’s support: Product innovation
5 Glh Hotels
Glh hotels have a passion for entrepreneurship. In 2015, Glh set up a living laboratory in hotels across London to trial technology solutions. However, eager to engage a community of tech entrepreneurs outside the existing organisation, they partnered with Innovate UK, the governments innovation agency, to launch a competition to promote wearable technology. How does wearable technology fit in to running hotels? Well Glh have a specific interest in delivering better guest experiences from wearable technology.
Their interest in startups goes beyond wearables however. Any startup can apply to access their Living Lab’s at any time. There is no set timeline as with accelerator programmes. Living Labs enables the testing of ground-breaking new beta products and concepts designed for the hotel industry. The ideal way for startups to pilot their technology in a real world scenario, whilst delivering Glh first option on a number of new technologies before they ever get mentioned to their competitors!
Startups most likely to attract Glh support: Guest experience
A great corporate/startup collaboration can start small-scale and grow. To get started on your road to innovation, define your objective for engaging startups. Start with a simple business problem you need to solve. Talk to Go To Guy about your needs to engage startups, and run one of our affordable match-maker programmes to meet appropriate startups, receive team training on how to engage with startups, and get the best out of startups. Contact us today for a chat today.