Two weeks ago I had the pleasure of travelling with a group of our corporate innovation customers on one of our Communitech global innovation tours. The tours – which have included destinations such as London, Seattle, Silicon Valley, Sweden and others – are learning expeditions to help our customers understand tech ecosystems expand their thinking and leverage the best innovation strategies and tactics from around the world.
This tour was a return visit to Israel, some four years after the last one. We came home with many insights, but I’d like to share my biggest takeaway: how corporates can leverage international scouting and partnerships to differentiate themselves and build strategic advantage.
Connecting to the topic of my last post, if you haven’t already refined your scouting approach, you shouldn’t be looking for ‘startups’ any more. Startup tourism is dead. You should be identifying a comprehensive set of key strategic opportunities and challenges that are imperative to the success of your organization – and areas where you see advantages to a buy or partner (vs. build) approach.
From that point you have a baseline to organize your scouting. Here are my key takeaways on what you should do next:
First, you should leverage opportunities to promote your key priorities and use your market power as a force of gravity to shape ecosystems around you. This means using venues like reverse pitches (you pitch to startups vs. them pitching to you) and challenges to demonstrate the opportunity of addressing your needs. NB: If you are a smaller entity you might be able to find partners to increase your gravity and leverage the same effect.
Second – and this is my central point on international scouting – is that you need to take the widest possible perspective to see and evaluate potential startup partners. My own experience as a corporate innovator or disruptor has taught me the same thing: that seeing startups in two, three or more geographic markets helps you find the best fit with your own tech stack, value or business model proposition.
Since we’re talking about Israel, here’s a relevant example, as they are world leaders in cyber security. During our visit we met several Israeli startups that had North American competitors, but as competitors they took a different approach to their tech and solutions. What does that mean in cyber security? Well, if everyone is using the same defences in a cyber arms race, it might mean that one day you will all have a common vulnerability – and several companies with the same potential vulnerability makes for a very attractive target. Maybe using an alternate or added layer of protection would provide you with a unique defence. That could be a very compelling value to your customers, and an advantage for your organization.
We saw a similar dynamic within and across different industry solutions. Because startups are taking a range of approaches on market position (between disruption and enablement), market timing (near-term and long-term plays), and other dimensions, a wider scanning capability could deliver unique perspectives on how your market may evolve over time, and inform the competitive position that you want to take.
Third, after you’ve prioritized your tech scouting, and hopefully found valuable partner prospects, you need to build an end-to-end process to create repeatable partnership outcomes that predictably create value for your organization. I already teased this topic in my last post, so I promise to cover this next time.
The Disruptor explores the best practices and pitfalls of large corporations as they pursue an agenda of innovation and change at scale in the digital era. Ian McDonald is Communitech’s Chief Customer Officer. He can be reached at email@example.com