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Abstract in German language: Wie versetze ich meinem Unternehmen eine Start-up-Frischzellenkur? Viele Wege führen nach Rom. Fünf davon werden hier diskutiert.

Does you company exist for 20 years and more? Does the organization show signs of a middle or any other management blocking or slowing down change? Is innovation more an incremental process instead of making quantum leaps? If you think the answer is rather ‘yes’, ‘yes’ and ‘yes’, welcome to the club of well established, traditional firms which should consider options to accelerate and break free by taking leverage on start-ups. Start-ups can have an effect on traditional, well established firms like a stem-cell therapy. They refresh a business inside out, leading to an innovation boost for products, business models and ways of working in an organization. This is the reason, why traditional firms are in search for ways to create interfaces to the start-up world or even integrate with it. There exist many ways which lead to Rome. Let’s us see what kind of options exist:

Hackathon approach

Blue chip and other well established firms participate in start-up conventions. Hackathons, Pioneers festival and others are formats which allow to plug into the start-scene at least for a day or a couple of days. Either you find your ‘gold nuggets’ within this time window or at least companies refresh their thinking or generate new ideas from being with this creative mass of lateral thinkers and throw-conventions-over-board-activists. Is this approach sustainable? I am not sure since it is more selective and temporal. But what about subscribing to the start-up scene?

Start-up subscription

Incubators pop-up in New York, London, Berlin, Paris, Vienna. The French president Macron just opened a really large one – called “Station F” in Paris. This is the reason for displaying the Macron photo taken at Station F at the top of this article. Incubators are the breeding place for start-ups. These places nurture start-ups by providing infrastructure – simply some office space –, peer-to-peer networking, expert coaching and access to investors. ‘Access to investors’ is where traditional firms plug in. From their point of view, incubators can help to find the right start-up potential for their portfolio. Even more, you can even subscribe to your favorite start-ups by investing in them and starting to integrate them into your company’s organization. Integration can be – in this case – compared to ‘swimming without getting wet’. Since the breeding takes place outside your organization, even your company premises. So, any contact between your organization and the crazy start-up non-conventionalist is limited to project based cooperation, some meetings, mailing, chatting, mutual visits. That’s it (or c’est ça, as Macron would say). – This approach delivers more sustainable results than betting on Hackathons. Nevertheless, stem cell therapy can be intensified by incubating yourself.

Incubate yourself

Incubating yourself means, establish your own breeding place for start-ups in your company. So, really establishing it on your company’s premises. The Google Development Center in the Londoner East-End has been one of the first examples of larger scale in Europe. By dedicating office space to external start-ups and by finally letting them in, you create a microcosm of cooperation and mutual inspiration. In general, it is more the technology sector – for example the Telecom & Media industry – taking leverage on start-ups this way. What is required? First, incubating yourself demands office space. And it should be dedicated office space, featuring security boundaries which physically separate this half-outside part of the firm from the totally inside parts of the company. More ingredients are necessary to get the ‘hot pot’ really boiling, but dedicated office space is a good start.

Virtual incubator

What to do when you purely lack the physical space to host start-up on your company’s premises. Lacking means, missing space nearby your relevant experts, like developers, product managers, marketeers. Any remote incubation space does not help to inspire your people every day. Is there still a chance to start the stem-cell-therapy? At the moment, my answer is: May be. One of the next projects with my students in the International Business Management Master program at IMC University of Applied Sciences will drill exactly into this topic. The challenge will be how to initiate a virtual breeding process. Anyone who is interested, please let me know and contact me. I have got my own ideas but am very curious about the students’ ideas and concepts coming up soon.

Spin-offs

One thing which we know for sure is, that incubation works as well the other way round. If you are longing for real innovation, send your best people away and let them spin-off into their own start-up. BMW in Germany has been doing this for the i car series. Erste Bank is Austria did it in order to develop its new online banking platform George. Such a start-up does not have to be an unlimited endeavor. It can be clearly limited in time, for example to a period of two or three years. Even your best and most creative people may like the option to return after a defined period of free-climbing experience.

Finally, it is to say: This list is not complete. If you think that other options should be amended, please comment down here and share your thoughts. I especially ask one of my very best Master students who is currently doing a semester abroad in Australia to contribute his ideas.

Picture source and more information: https://qz.com/1044393/paris-has-ambitions-to-become-a-global-tech-hub-can-emmanuel-macron-help-make-it-happen/

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