The Strategist

Getting it right: How to invest in start-ups

08/27/2018 - 15:32

Most of modern corporations have realized a simple fact: if your company does not introduce new technologies, its chances of becoming uncompetitive in the very near future are very high. But this problem will become apparent only after the event, when the company finds itself on the verge of a disaster.

Until recently, the most common way to support innovation was to create your own R&D department, or to acquire a startup that has patents for certain innovative solutions. Now, the most progressive companies adhere to the Open Innovation strategy, in which corporations openly collaborate with other companies, universities, research centers and start-ups to bring innovations to the market as quickly and inexpensively as possible. Accelerators, profile training programs, innovative hubs, etc. are created for this purpose. They allow turning ideas into solutions that can then spread to a more global level. The world gets new solutions for life, and companies and start-ups receive an opportunity to exchange different approaches and skills through cooperation.

Earlier, after the conclusion of a cooperation agreement with a large company, a startup kept working by itself and showed results to company representatives from time to time. Now, cooperation with start-ups has shifted to a closer level of interaction at each stage of the work. All this requires much more effort than an ordinary investment. In addition, the time factor plays a key role. The corporation should be ready to introduce a new product in a short time, because the idea itself will lose its relevance if this process drags on. At the same time, if the project was found to be unpromising, the corporation should be ready to retreat. That's why it is extremely important for the company to initially have a clear understanding of what it wants from the startup.

It is necessary to form a global start-up ecosystem since this will bring tangible benefits to all involved participants in the process of innovation development: from large companies that will be the first to have access to advanced technologies, to start-ups that can not only receive financing but also achieve rapid entry to the market. Some countries, such as Israel and the United States, have already created viable and effective local start-up ecosystems, the turnover of which amounts to billions of dollars. For instance, Israeli start-ups managed to attract $ 5 billion of investments in 2017; the number amounted $ 67 billion for American start-ups. Other countries are also actively developing similar ecosystems.

It is impossible to get involved in the process of innovation development at once in order to get a completely renewed company right now. First, you need to clearly understand what exactly changes does your company need: internal processes of the company, a specific product or how the company interacts with customers. Then these ideas need to be conveyed to the startups themselves, and accelerators and innovative hubs already play an important role here. In the accelerator, the dialogue takes place in the intensive training mode. This form of communication helps ensure rapid development of the already existing business.

Hubs provide corporations with the opportunity to formulate a request. In turn, start-ups help to find a solution, regardless of the stage of development of their business. The innovative hub here acts as a link between the corporation, the startup, and venture funds. And if the company sees that the project is promising, it can itself connect the start-up with a specific fund.

In addition, another feature of a hub is an opportunity to apply those solutions that are not very popular in the country or in other branches of the company, especially when it comes to an international corporation. The hub thus helps not only to connect the technology's author and the interested company, but also to connect the local ecosystem with the international start-up community. Such innovative hubs work with start-ups from different parts.

So, the request is formulated, the startup is found, the goals, the tasks, the KPIs are defined. What's next? Another important thing is regular interaction. The point is to give the corporation and the startup an opportunity to work together at each stage of the project. This is the main difficulty of such forms of interaction: they require regular coherent work and a high degree of involvement of all participants in the process. At that, such complexity also contains the main advantage for the company: it does not need to wait until the necessary product appears on the market. On the contrary, it creates it together with the start-up, becomes the innovative development driver and can influence the final version. The company can analyze shortcomings and advantages of the product in the development process and follow the path of financial development.

Of course, early start support often assumes a certain level of risk. But there are no ready-made solutions or guarantees in any case, and so only those companies that cooperate with start-ups and try to implement their solutions will be able to gain a competitive advantage in the technology race.


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