Introducing innovation to your company is not a one-time offer for startups to hop in, do the job, leave, and you’re good for the next 20 years. It’s a long-term process that must be implemented in a corporation for good. And here’s why.
If you work in a corporation, you know it takes a staggering amount of time to implement new features. Who’s even responsible for doing that, anyway? Well, it could just be the Innovation department, but here’s the deal. It can’t do the work itself. It must be introduced from the very top to the bottom of an organization. Innovation needs to be incorporated in the very structure and stay there as long as possible.
One good thing is that you are reading this article. It’s your first step to get to know the startup community, its pros and cons, and to find out, how to make the two parties work together effectively and with mutual respect.
Before you think about startups…
It’s crucial that we all understand innovation. People commonly misinterpret it as improvement, thus coming to a conclusion, innovation is easy, you just need a little creativity. Upgrading the car with the latest sound system and heated seats cannot be called an innovation. Self-driving cars, however, make a difference. They’re innovative in a way that many trend observers haven’t seen before. Being used to sitting in the driver’s seat and controlling (almost) each aspect of your journey, it might be disturbing to experience a car turning the wheels or braking when approaching traffic lights.
Improvement means making existing things more convenient, the solutions are never so revolutionary that they cannot be copied by others. Implementing innovative solutions, on the other hand, creates added value. Only 10 years ago no one in their right mind would consider renting out a couch in their living room, and yet, once Airbnb launched in 2008, it resulted in a massive success and over 150 million users today. It was an answer to people’s desire to have extra income. Many have created businesses around Airbnb by renting out whole apartments or buying properties with the aim of short-term rentals.
Therefore it’s highly recommended to follow both current and prospective trends on the market, analyze the moves of your competition, and look for inspiration outside your own company.
How do you determine the need for innovation?
Corporations are successfully creating innovation departments, responsible solely for finding room for innovation. The key here is to have the right people, who have innovative thinking in their DNA. Whether it be an innovation architect, or a Chief Innovation Officer, change is crucial for corporations to stay on track. These managers have the experience and set of skills that allow to lead a dedicated team. One of the most important tasks is to implement the culture of innovation by constant education, attending conferences, and business networking. Diversifying the educational resources is also essential, unless we want a team that follows the same way of thinking. The startup ecosystem is not as hermetic as one could expect. It blends with other environments to create more value to regular customers and users, so corporations need to look at it from a wide perspective.
If you struggle to determine the need for innovation, why not turn to your end clients? The easiest way is to run a survey and ask consumers directly. What could be improved? What’s missing? What annoys them the most when they use the service or product? The results might be surprising and if you aren’t conducting similar research on a regular basis, it is time to change it.
Ideas from the inside
There’s also a different approach and it includes a lot of teamwork. If you are a leader, encourage your team to dive into tech news, read reports, annual statistics and predictions for the upcoming years. Implement a culture, where each member is eager to expand knowledge and seek new solutions. Start with yourself. Show how you do the research, help them adapt their schedules, so they have time to explore trends, not only in your industry, but other ones, too. Join them in an attempt to come up with ideas for innovation. Think about what clients will never say, because they don’t know certain solutions, yet. Many have probably wondered, if human interaction could be reduced to minimum when shopping. We’re talking introverts, but still, wouldn't it be convenient, to just enter a store on your way home, pick what you need, and still manage to catch that 6:32 train home? Amazon came up with an idea like that. You just need an app and your smartphone. Amazon Go store is a fresh concept that became reality. It’s an almost 100% automated system, with no shop assistants within your sight. Actual people still need to make deliveries, so until we have self-driving trucks (hey, Tesla?), Amazon Go remains an almost automated thing.
How do you start with startups?
If you work in the innovation unit or are in desperate need for innovative solutions in your department, start by searching the internet. There is literally no way startups have no references, as it’s in their core to be seen and recognized globally. Study different materials and reports, that are often available online for free. Make sure they are up-to-date. you don’t want to rely on resources from 2015 in 2018. Organizations such as Startup Poland or Startup Genome release their report every year. Find out the characteristics of the startup community, what the work culture is, and how they grow the business. Having a solid background on startups is crucial to even think about implementing their technology. Such companies run on different terms than bigger entities, have a relatively lower life expectancy, work quickly, and are pro-creative. Corporations, on the other hand, provide vast knowledge on data analysis, maintain a large client network, and have the capital.
Try and find lists of startups, that complement your needs. Find places where you can meet the founders. If it requires travelling to another city or country, aggregate your meetings. For example, startups often stay within one area which provides them with facilities such as office space, favourable renting conditions, access to high-skilled team members and university graduates prepared and ready to work in a startup. Young tech companies gather in larger hubs and coworking spaces, like Campus Warsaw, IdeaHub, Brain Embassy, Business Link, HubHub, or Reaktor Warsaw. Their atmosphere fosters new business connections, innovative ideas, and formal or informal meetings. It’s good to contact at least three hubs and see, what they have to offer, as well as what startups you can expect to meet there.
Startuppers in corporate structures
Having an employee with a startup mindset is always a good thing. Having an employee that knows how to use it in practice - even better. Look for people, who understand the startup environment, be it a former startupper or a person that used to work closely with startups. It can often be difficult to implement a different approach towards innovation. Hire someone, who can cooperate with innovative companies and knows how startups work. Research you do on your own will never tell you as much as an insider. The knowledge your company receives, can give you more ideas and implementation schedules, so that innovation becomes reality. If you can afford it, create teams with ex-startuppers. Encourage them to blend in and to provide added value. A different working culture can be very beneficial for your corporate employees.
What are the benefits?
The abovementioned features lead to a conclusion. Startups and corporations complement each other in many aspects. The first group usually looks for thorough market research, since no market need is the number one reason startup companies fail, according to recent studies by CB Insights. They also frequently struggle to expand the business network and find potential clients. Another issue involves lack of capital, thus the necessity to pitch their projects and gather financing from VCs or private investors.
Corporations have the resources and only need to fetch the opportunity to implement startup solutions. With the startups’ fast execution methods, dedicated teams of professionals, and the ability to grow rapidly. They aren’t afraid of taking risks, as they’re written in their DNA.
Konrad Milewski, Bayer
Where can you find them?
Finding a startup to cooperate with is not easy, let alone finding a good one. We’re advising that you and your teammates attend networking conferences. You’ll meet many startups at large conferences, however don’t underestimate smaller events, like meetups or startup pitching days. Here at the Wolves Summit conference we match startups, corporations, and investors by creating favourable conditions to meet and establish new partnerships. The matchmaking system for 1:1 meetings includes detailed profiles of all participants, so that you can filter people who match your company’s needs. We’ve seen huge interest in the tool, hence the idea to move offline experiences to online and with the all-year-long access. If you’re looking for specific industries and solutions, the wide range of available filters will help you find the perfect matches.