How Giants Stay Nimble

Change and innovation are generally not synonymous with global enterprises. The common conceit is that they are like massive tankers attempting to change direction in a narrow, crowded harbor. They’re slow, plodding and anything but nimble. That’s because the received wisdom is that at a certain point businesses become too big to effectively innovate. In today’s climate, where it is vital that enterprises Be (more) Like Bezos to survive and thrive, that kind of resistance to innovation can be lethal. More and more, however, I find that enterprises are learning to get out of their own way and that’s changing the calculus completely. They are solving their traditional problems of inertia by leveraging the startup community resulting in more agile and competitive businesses from banking and finance to retail and consumer goods.

Revel and KITE, a platform to help enterprises manage their startup innovation, have partnered up to do quarterly Innovation Salons across the country at leading Fortune 500 brands who use the platform. Two weeks ago we held an innovation Salon at Verizon in NYC that specifically celebrated this trend. It was attended by various startups (like Brightfox, Fetcher, MarketMuse, and Loop & Tie among others) as well as key enterprises (like Citi Ventures, American Express, Unilever). The salon was broken down into panel and pitch sections. The panel section was made up of different heads of innovation from companies like Verizon, Estee Lauder, and Diageo speaking specifically to examples where they utilized startups to help solve big business problems or innovate within their sector.

Erika Parkins at Estee Lauder spoke of how the innovation around AR and virtual makeup came about as a result of a startup working out of their innovation lab. Sasha Lucas at Verizon Fios spoke to how they built a solution for speed testing the strength of FIOS signal strength that was also directly the result of an app developed by a startup. It was great to hear not only how enterprises tapped into the startup community to solve business problems and innovate but, also, to shed light on some of the issues and challenges common to the process.

Some of the biggest hurdles enterprises cited when working with startups were, unsurprisingly, internal in nature. There’s the NIH Syndrome (Not Invented Here) where resistance to new ideas generated outside of the company can make it tricky for a startup solution to gain acceptance. Or, in other instances, enterprise innovation teams are sometimes too far removed from internal business units and the result is that real-world, business needs are not translating. By and large, though, the enterprises described these roadblocks as more headaches than impediments. They are not standing in the way of enterprises getting down to business, engaging with startups and getting things done. The one persistent problem, however, consistently derailing the process of enterprises and startups working together is how to effectively and efficiently connect startups with enterprises in the first place. So many start-ups, which ones to choose?

Insights from Kite, Verizon, Estee Lauder and Diageo on how Giants stay nimble.

KITE, a SaaS platform led by Mark Silva, is going a long way towards answering that problem. The platform leverages data collected from various sources and databases to aggregate startup profiles that help enterprises track and collaborate with the hundreds of thousands of startups that populate the platform. Effectively, it helps enterprises manage their outreach to the right startups with functions like Discovery (who can help me with supply chain analytics or marketing tech around mobile?), CMS (how do we effectively communicate internally?) and Engagement (how do we RFP the startup and manage that process?).

The last portion of the salon was my favorite. It focused on startups doing their “pitch” to the perspective enterprises in the audience. The startups featured were Market Muse, Fetcher, Suzi and Loop & Tie. They were each impressive in their own way and each seemed to make significant headway directly as a result of the salon. Verizon was very engaged with Market Muse around how to optimize their search listings and Fetcher had a sign up the following day after their pitch connected!

The salon affirmed something Revel believes strongly in, namely, the value startups bring to global enterprises. They are helping them address real-world business problems and helping them with the vital task of innovation. It is particularly gratifying to see enterprises acting against type and no longer being slow to innovate. They are serious about Being Like Bezos and that’s good news for everyone.

Contact me if you’d like to join us next for our next Innovation Salon at Comcast in Philadelphia!