As companies grow and work gets compartmentalized into departments, they start reacting slower to change. They are also late to catch up on emerging innovations, unlike startups that are lean and fast. This is why companies increasingly seek external innovation or innovation from sources other than their internal research and development teams. A popular approach is launching startup programs that combine lessons from the startup ecosystem and companies’ internal data to boost innovation. Industry leaders are increasingly working with startups with this approach, for example, the renewable energy leader Iberdrola – who we have worked together with on over 20 startup challenges. In this article, we share a few lessons that we have learned running open innovation challenges for Iberdrola that can benefit your programs as well.
The StartUs Insights Discovery Platform provides detailed firmographic data on over 2,5 million startups. This allows us to identify the most relevant innovative companies for your startup calls. This is why 1000+ companies trust us with their startup programs.
What we Learned from Iberdrola’s Successful Open Innovation Challenges
1. Optimize for Conversions
Startup-corporate collaborations have asymmetric power dynamics. In a startup program, a group of emerging disruptors works alongside an industry leader. A concern for prospective startup applicants could be that the host company will gain more out of a startup program as compared to the startups. The design of the startup program should have clear objectives and timelines to help startups better assess both their fit to the program and vice versa.
Clear and transparent communication of the objectives and expectations of a startup program is critical to its success. One way to achieve this is with conversion-optimized landing pages. For example, the landing page for Iberdrola’s Data Center Decarbonization Challenge highlights the value it will create for both startups and Iberdrola itself. Secondly, Direct and Promotional Outreach to highly relevant startups also communicates what is in it for startups.
2. Foster Bottom-up Innovation
At large companies, there are thousands of employees, many of whom may have never worked at a startup. This is why there is often a lack of an entrepreneurship mindset in corporate teams. By working with promising startups, companies don’t just learn new techniques and technologies but foster intrapreneurship as well. For instance, objectives for startup programs should be identified by individual business units within a company.
At Iberdrola, these objectives come from business units ranging from electricity networks and pipe management to renewable energy teams. This promotes cross-functional collaboration between internal teams, leading to a culture of innovation within the company. Such collaborations also identify and resolve internal challenges that a single team may not have spotted.
3. Identify Value Proposition
As discussed earlier, startup programs need to have specific objectives. But what should these objectives achieve? When running a startup program, a company expects to identify solutions that increase the value proposition of its products and services. To effectively do that, it must be able to define the value that the participant startups must bring and assess them. For example, this challenge from Iberdrola made it explicit that it was looking for startups developing photovoltaic structures, materials, and models. This allowed us to filter out startups that didn’t match the criteria.
Are you looking for solutions that are already mature or early-stage ones? Which of your departments and processes should the solutions have an impact on? Are you looking for solutions that you can adapt to different contexts? Having answers to questions like these allows you to identify the most relevant startups. This way, defining value propositions improves the return on investment of your startup programs.
4. Run Pilot Projects
A well-designed startup program will result in startups that show high potential for collaborating with you. Identifying which ones best translate potential into commercial success is critical to gaining a competitive advantage. Iberdrola does this by running pilot projects in collaboration with startups. Startups receive the funding, technical support, as well as data required to run these pilots.
For companies, pilot projects advance many objectives, ranging from saving costs, improving the efficiency of business processes, or creating new markets. This is why, whenever applicable, Iberdrola’s Startup Calls cover the cost of running pilot programs as well as provide the technical support required to execute them.
5. Run Startup Programs Often
New startups are coming up at an exponential rate, many of which have the potential to disrupt your industry. Data-driven startup programs are an effective way to engage with the most promising startups. However, you cannot engage for one year and then rest for the next few years. The pace at which new technologies emerge demands that you engage with startups often or continuously.
This is why you need to run startup programs on a regular basis. Large companies have dozens of processes, each of which is prone to disruption. One effective way to stay market-ready is to diversify your startup programs. For example, even though Iberdrola has identified decarbonization as an emerging theme central to its industry, it runs or has run programs for decarbonization of data centers, livestock sector, and electricity networks.
Set up Your Data-driven Startup Call Today
Ready to implement these lessons in your startup program? Our experience in setting and running startup programs boosts the quantity and quality of applicants to your Startup Program. To achieve this, we offer the following deliverables:
- Setup of Conversion-optimized Landing Page: Leveraging our experience with SEO-optimized content, we set up the landing page of your startup program to attract more applicants.
- Direct Outreach: By using our proprietary Discovery Platform covering over 2,5 million startups globally, we find the ones that fit your innovation needs and convert the most relevant ones into applications for your program.
- Promotional Outreach: By promoting your program through our magazine, social media channels, and 2 500+ online communities, we present it to promising startups globally. This also builds long-term awareness in the relevant startup community
- Applicant Pre-screening: When, with our combined efforts, you receive more applicants than you can handle, our trained Analysts analyze startup data to pre-screen the startups with the best potential.
Are you looking to elevate your startup call or create one from scratch? Get in touch to know how our data-driven approach allows you to identify the most relevant startups for your startup calls.