Innovation has always been a very important issue in corporates and, with the consolidation of the Italian startup ecosystem, it is no longer a surprise to find, perhaps in different declinations, open innovation programs in large companies with the aim of “using” speed in grounding the innovation of startups with corporate needs.
With my first startup I participated in many of these programs and, although it has always been an excellent opportunity for contact with potential large customers and for networking, I have rarely had the opportunity to convert participation into new customers. In the best scenarios, however very rare, we arrive at a POC (Proof of Concept), which in company jargon is a bit more than a demonstration connected to corporate processes, but has never been converted into supply contracts.
From my point of view, this is still the limit of open innovation. On the one hand there are those who organize these programs according to their needs, the corporates, on the other the startups that innovate by definition. So where is the problem? It lies in the times and in the ways: on the one hand, startups move in an agile way trying to acquire market shares horizontally, therefore more customers in different sectors, to be more attractive for venture capital funds or possible buyers; on the other hand, for large companies it is not enough that the innovative solution proposed is 80/90% adherent to the need, but it must be completely so. The effort for the startup to fill this remaining gap, at the state of the art, is not convenient due to the response times, unfortunately by nature not agile, of the corporate. This often discourages startups from moving forward.
In this context, the Venture Builders can be inserted as protagonists who are operators who aim to launch new business with a team independent of the originator of the same, both deriving from the needs of strategic plans of the top management of a large company, from one spin-off of an SME or from an idea of a group of entrepreneurs.
It is here that the Venture Builders represent a new way of doing open innovation by actually creating a startup that was born on an internal need that covers them entirely thanks to their intervention that operates independently, where speed of execution and results count. just like a startup that has to quickly scale its initiative. This separation and operational independence is fundamental both to move away from internal barriers and to avoid replicating a “usual” research and development initiative under another name.
The fundamental advantage is that of seeing the initiative implemented and that it can be measured with metrics from which iterates with the methodologies of the startups. Alongside this there are easily imaginable advantages including, together with the aforementioned speed of execution, lean processes, flexibility and the possibility of external funding.
In favor of the model there is already a very important school case, that of Daimler, which has always had a track record in business innovation and which has formalized the relationship with the builder 1886 Ventures.
Net of the buzz word of the moment, the phenomenon is worth keeping an eye on and seriously considered both by those who already offer open innovation programs and by those who are studying models to bring innovation to companies.