How to innovate in large companies? This simple question turns out to be much more complex than expected, as global players are focused on executing a proven business model rather than searching for a new one whose profitability is untested. These are some of the issues that Andreas Page, Senior Manager in charge of Digital Business Development at Swisscom and myself discussed recently.
Presentation of Andreas Pages, Senior Manager FinTech—Digital Business Development and Fintech at Swisscom and Chief Operating Officer at Custodigit
Andreas started in Germany and then moved to the UK and studied at business and finance before joining Deloitte consulting where he worked in business and finance transformation roles.
Then Andreas moved to Switzerland to join Capgemini and became the right hand of the account manager leading an 800 people business. He joined the internal financial global unit of Capgemini.
He started his own startup: “allfor1” as a spin-off. He loved the fact of developing a business from scratch. Then, Andreas joined Swisscom in 2014.
Developing innovation in large companies
At this time there was a no job description. But Andreas worked on a project with a bank. He implemented the first peer to peer market place for banks. Banks are able to run their own market place. This was the first bank who had their own market place. However, they realized later on that the market potential might not be as large as expected.
Developing innovation in large companies
The banking division of Swisscom is 800 FTE and there are strict Key Performance Indicators (KPI) to meet. Andreas found it quite difficult to develop an innovation in an environment that’s more geared to operational excellence and execution. So Andreas joined a new business unit with the aim of generating new revenue streams within the Swiss Telecom player.
2 years on, they had spotted many startups the corporation would consider working with but had laid out a professional way of interacting with them. Therefore, they outlined an engagement process and started with an idea that could come from startups, Swisscom, or a third party partner.
An idea must be big enough in terms of revenue potential to evolve to a Proof of Concept (PoC). If the PoC turns successful, they see how to turn it into:
- 1/ a product for Swisscom,
- 2/ a Swisscom spin-off,
- 3/ a Swisscom startup investment.
Getting the “startup-large corporate” relationship right
About a year and half ago, Andreas met with NetGuardian, a startup focused on minimizing cyber crime in the banking space. Cybercrime is expected to reach $6 trillion by 2021 as more consumers flock to ATMs, mobile banking and online banking services. NetGuardian keeps financial institutions safe from by using advanced behavorial analytics to detect atypical actions and raise alerts accordingly.
In addition to investing in the startup, they jointly developed a product which they launched on the market in Switzerland. Working together, they found many “wins wins”:
- The startup’s business model needs to transition from “project work” to “software as a service”.
- Swisscom would help with the hosting and the implement of the software-as-a-service on the client’s premises as Netgardian is offering a “plug and play” solution.
- Swisscom could provide access to large corporate clients. Swisscom sold NetGuardian offerings to 5 of its clients in 6 months.
- Swisscom leaders realized during this journey on how to create new revenue streams that finding the right ground between corporate and startups is critical. The key is to see if the technology solves a real problem that is common to multiple corporates.
Today, NetGuardian enjoys a much more scalable offering as it can distribute its software-as-a service offering globally. This example shows how a large corporate and startup can build a “win-win” relationship.
Building internal startups
When they started 2 years ago, they thought they could develop a lot of innovations and then they would hire a CEO and he would develop it. But this does not work. Why? Talent acquisition proves crucial. Attract talent on new ventures appears much more difficult than expected. It’s hard to find the right people.
They developed Custodigit, a digital asset platform helping customers manage the entire life cycle of their assets.. The investment team is taking over some of the key roles to develop the project before it’s deployed by another competing startup. The key is to find the right people and the right team as early as possible. At the PoC level, one should have the designated CEO and the designated CTO on board.
Investing in the “startup-corporate” relationship
Swisscom has a Venture Capital arm. It started out as a Corporate Venture Capital (CVC) with the interest of doing investments and exits. in the current portfolio is about 40 startups. Their portfolio is now considered to be series of opportunities that the Swiss telecom player could benefit from, on a day-to-day basis. One startup does speech recognition software and they’re adding speech recognition capability to their Swisscom TV. In addition to looking at startups to improve consumer experience, they also help startups connect to global investors.
Entrepreneurship is clearly becoming more and more important. Although there’s much talent in the corporate world, questions remain:
- How to discover this talent?
- How to give them an opportunity?
- How should corporates change in order to boost intraneurship?
- How to combine consulting with an investment program?