Nurture Startups in your ecosystem to keep the competitive edge

Vodaphone devised a very smart approach to open innovation which will certainly reinforce their competitive edge. It’s called Startup bootcamp. The concept is the following: They invited early stage Startups to settle down in their Amsterdam HQ for the first critical months of their existence.

By the way, Vodaphone’s HQ is one of the coolest office environment I’ve ever seen. They have it all: the cool design, the cubicles replaced by stairs, canteen tables or the sunny terrace and even more importantly, the baby-foot table. If they cannot be innovative there, nobody will !

During these critical months, Vodaphone provides mentoring and other types of support. They even have a devoted studio / pitching room to help startups practice public VC funding speeches.

They nurture startups on site rather than letting them operate in the distant outside world. They open their technology to them. This is a very smart way to ensure startups will develop solutions that fit their ecosystem. Of course, it also provides the opportunity to be the first to benefit from it.

Integrating startups early on in their ecosystem would certainly make sense for many industries at the intersection of a physical medium and creative content (e.g TV, music, press, video and related equipment companies)

Is that not as well and idea to explore for other sectors? I can think about old fashion automotive companies. What if they invited startups that develop green chemicals, hybrid technologies or online apps to work from an onsite startup floor. What if Pharma groups could do the same with datamining startups?

And what about your industry?

Breakthrough time: when all forces converge…

In many industries, one general product design dominates. Design might have evolved slightly over the last decades, but not fundamentally.

A major reason is that dominant players have low incentive to change once the market is at maturity. They invested once. Now, the cash-cow design should be milked. Another reason is that norms and habits are difficult (and expensive) to alter. The human mind tends to satisfy itself with what he is used to, even if it is suboptimal. I prefer not to tell you how many years it took me to switch from a PC full of bugs to a Mac…

But there is one more reason: the overall context must be ripe for the innovation to make sense to all players.

Let’s look at heavy trucks. They did not change so much since you were born did they? They are heavy and rectangular. And I don’t even speak about US heavy trucks, which are monsters compared to their European counterparts. You can easily imagine their Cx (aerodynamic factor) and the resulting fuel consumption. Actually, more energy-efficient designs were suggested to the industry over the years. However, petrol was cheap. Regulations were not focusing on energy-saving or CO2 emission. What incentive did freight companies or truck producers have to invest in new trucks that solved such environmental issues?

But now that regulations, governmental programs, variable costs and customer mindset all converge in the same direction, time has surely come for the development and easier adoption of a new design.

Success time for an innovation is when all forces converge in the market environment.

Has the time come for yours?

Channel innovation and more: the Dr Oetker & Pizzamatic case

Have you heard about Pizzamatic?

Take an equipment company. Add a strong German deep-freeze pizza brand. Let it cook for years. Et voila! You get an automatic Dr Oetker pizza machine.

My Italian ancestors would certainly be turning themselves in their graves, if they knew that! But still, it’s interesting from an innovation standpoint. You were drinking coffee from a machine, so why not eating pizza similarly?

First of all, it is a channel innovation. I assume that Dr Oetker was facing increasing competition in supermarkets. They surely needed to extend usage in untapped territories. But it is not the first automatic pizza machine in the market. So where’s the magic? I guess it is “the Intel inside effect”, the association with Dr Oetker brand that consumers already trust. Besides, the promotional video also highlights many convenience benefits for the user (the pizza lover) and the intermediary (the machine owner who has to refill pizza and clean the device). Finally, the strategic positioning is very clear. The target is high traffic places where people have limited time, such as airports, train stations and universities. By the way, as an innovator, you should not only convince the pizza lovers but also the high traffic place owners (the channel). They are the real first line customers. If they don’t like you, nobody will see you…

I have not tried it, but hopefully after five years technical development and two years market testing, the technology should work.

In any case, they seem to have many ingredients for a success recipe!

A new blog: inspire & share innovation best practices

Innovation, whether it is about launching new products or adopting new ways to do business shares some features with any new market entry (industries, customer segments new geographies). It is in most cases a slow, difficult, ambiguous process. Outcomes are highly uncertain. It can be at times highly frustrating for those in charge of making it happen. However, it is a very rewarding job from an intellectual perspective and experience gain. Besides, it has the “fun factor” that lacks (at least for people like me) in routine activities. It can also provide large financial rewards to individuals, companies, industries and even countries when the sweetspot is discovered.

But above all innovation, having a flexible mindset and entering new markets in general are a must. The world evolves more quickly every day. Individual tastes change over time. Emerging countries can still produce cheaper than developed ones. Now they even innovate, threatening what advanced countries believed to be their single property. In a global economy, where capital, knowledge and human resources are highly mobile, the capacity to renew itself, to add more value is critical to revitalize growth in the developed world  – leaving austerity and unemployment at bay, rather than shutting down borders and advocating isolation as the solution. It is also one of the keys to exit poverty in emerging nations, enabling them to earn the right to sit at the table of the big nations. The freedom to choose, is better than being a debtors forever.

Making innovation happen is my daily life, with it’s achieved milestones and challenges. Despite common points with any market entry, the path to success in innovation also follows some peculiar rules, which are not well-known. I will share my practical insights in this blog that are relevant to new market entries in general and those more specific to “innovation”. There are people of course who have more experience than I have in this field. I would not hesitate to recommend their books. I am not an academic (though I did study all the theories during my Kellogg-WHU Executive MBA). I am not a consultant (hence don’t expect me to draw to many models).  I am also not a native English speaker (don’t expect language wonders here). I am an industry practitioner, in charge of leading on a daily basis an innovation program aiming to introduce a game-changing technology. I am also a believer in the benefits of innovation.

This blog will contain notably best practices, innovators interviews, innovative ideas presentations and polls, books and articles recommendations, and more to come around ideas that can improve our world.

My intention is to inspire you to question status quo (in your company and in life in general) and share practical experience. My goal is to help you transform ideas into tangible (and profitable) realities that improve life. Hope I will help!

Be open – Be passionate – Have fun – Challenge status quo – Dare to act – Improve life