How to Spin Up a Startup Inside of P&G

The COO of Tide Spin on Autonomy in the Enterprise

“The graph to success looks like my signature.”

Nirav Amin is the COO of Procter & Gamble subsidiary Tide Spin. His presentation was recorded at Econic’s 2017 Inside/Outside Innovation Summit. More videos like this can be found on our Vimeo page or by subscribing to our monthly Newsletter.

Tide Spin is an on-demand laundry service operating as a standalone startup inside of Proctor & Gamble. Their story showcases the advantages of operating corporate ventures as mostly autonomous companies.

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The obstacles inherent to most internal ventures are detailed here — a mash of typical startup challenges (finding the right business model, scaling it…) and internal limitations (a parent company’s short-term objectives, branding..). Most are restricted by what they’re allowed to do:

The internal venture must fight on a second front at the same time within the corporation. That second fight must obtain the permissions, protection, resources, etc. needed to launch the venture initiative, and then must work to retain that support over time as conflicts arise (which they will).”

But, as Tide Spin shows, internal ventures aren’t condemned to parent limitations. In their system, P&G empowers the startup by providing space and tools to operate autonomously while backing it with a rich support system.

Nirav explained how P&G’s employs a “best of both worlds” approach.


The Opportunity

Tide is a household name, but one brand manager discovered an opportunity for Tide in the outsourced laundry segment — dry cleaners, pickup, and delivery. He, with help from R&D and Market Research, developed the concept of Tide Spin and pitched it to leadership.

“Tide Spin won’t address our short term goals.”

“It probably won’t pay off for a number of years.”

Conceptually, though, the service sounded great. Management OK’d it and set a team up to test the idea.

Starchup’s CEO on retail dry cleaners in Chicago: ““We found that there’s a lot of savvy operators out there,” Chapleau said. “They really know how to clean clothes, they’ve been doing it for years, they just don’t have mobile app developers working for them.”

The Execution

Proctor & Gamble’s Model for an Autonomous Startup

“Give Us Autonomy But Keep Us Connected”

Tide Spin chose to start up in Chicago, an urban ecosystem with close enough proximity to Cincinnati — where Tide HQ is located — and an existing Tide Dry Cleaners venue. The team rented 4 desks at the popular startup hub 1871. “More than them (other residents) learning from us, we learned from them — college students, teenagers, entrepreneurs.”.

1871’s shared co-working space in Chicago. Visit their website.

“Use What You Don’t Have”

Tide Spin combined existing internal infrastructure and resources from P&G with new tools and processes that hadn’t yet been adopted back in Cincinnati.

Internal support included a Customer Learnings team helped accelerating a Lean approach by interviewing customers.

New tools included Zendesk and Klipfolio — platforms that the team leaned on to track and pivot.

Accountable (& Lean)

P&G held them accountable. Nirav explained the mistake he thinks many startups make by not tracking things like unit economics and how P&G’s accounting requirements has kept the company Lean. “All costs are relevant.”.

No Equity

“My equity stake is I love my job,” says Nirav. Nobody on Tide Spin has an equity stake in the unit.

Healthy Relationships

“If we hustle, they trust us.” Open debates and conversations with leadership happen regularly. There’s an honest dialogue for the good of the product — that’s critical.

“In the end, we’ve taken the powerful structure -legal, HR, marketing research, executive knowledge, institutional knowledge — and paired it with up and comers in a thriving startup community. Best of both worlds.”

Watch the full video to learn more about the points above. Thank you to Nirav and the Tide Spin team for sharing your learnings with over 500 instigators and innovators at this year’s Summit!

Connect with Nirav on LinkedIn.

View Tide Spin’s Yelp page.


For more on enterprise startups and enterprise acting like startups see these episodes of the Inside/Outside Innovation Podcast:

Ep. 46 — Derek Mauk w/ Anheuser-Busch (formerly of P&G)

Ep. 32 — Eric Schulz w/ John Deere and lean startup

Ep. 22 — BMW’s Venture Client Model w/ Gregor Gimmy and Matthias Meyer (discusses a similar approach to launching their Startup Garage)


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