Axis Innovation Team | April, 16 2020

Key advice from the Axis Webinar on Innovation Now

With the unprecedented level of change in the innovation world, Axis Innovation gathered 5 leading corporate innovation managers to discuss how startups and corporations can create successful partnerships today. Our panelists included 5 leading corporate executives in the automotive, consumer goods, retail, and telecom sectors to share what is changing, how startups can find the right corporate partners, and what the future may look like post-Corona.

We were joined by Scott Lyons — global in-vehicle content, data and partnerships manager at Ford Motor CompanyEilat Cohen Basat — managing director of Global Digital Innovation at Kimberly ClarkDenis Levchenko — head of innovation scouting at X5 Retail GroupVera Steiner — innovation manager at Hutchison 3; and Dave Vasquez — innovation lead at MTS Startup Hub. Here are 5 pieces of advice that we learnt from Axis Webinar: Global Corporations — Innovation Now with Startups:

1. Re-prioritisation is vital: 

The thought on the minds of most in the audience would have been how global innovation is affected during the current times. The key point coming from the speakers was the need to prioritise now and focus on putting your resources into the right places, considering that we are, at least for now, living in a completely new reality. Scott Lyons acknowledged the need to lend a hand at such a time, being part of initiatives in mental health, for example. This is an illustration of the ability for companies to find opportunities to assist in the crisis while still promoting their brand and potentially creating revenue, through solutions such as Ford’s involvement in manufacturing ventilators and masks. Re-focusing does not mean losing. The difference between sectors became clear though, as the challenges and new use cases for telcos in the short term and long term were differentiated from how an automotive company can innovate, while the need for quick modernisation in retail was shown to be a priority.

2. Relevance will win: 

Creating a relevant solution with a clear value proposition is extremely important now, as discussed by Eilat Cohen Basat. We have to look at everything through a different lens and consider partnering with companies which we potentially never would have before. Denis Levchenko said that from a retail point of view, and in general, there is major cash pressure now. Therefore, startups need to offer a clear business efficiency and potentially should be focusing on ways to decrease operational costs, as this would be top of corporate minds. An example of a relevant solution was discussed by Vera Steiner, who discussed Hutchison 3’s recent partnership with doctors and an insurance company in order to provide distance consultations. This was not intended to be released soon, but the circumstances led to the early launch of the solution.

3. It may be a time for survival, but be patient and active: 

For all startups now, it is a case of surviving through the crisis. However, Dave Vasquez noted that the results of all this change might only be seen over a longer period, meaning that all companies need to look beyond the now and seek opportunities. While discussing the topic of mergers and acquisitions, it was said that it is a good time to go out and look, with positives and negatives existing at this time in different sectors. Scott also suggested that there will be talented people, who would normally be employed consistently, looking for jobs at this time. These minds need to be snapped up so as ‘not to let the crisis go to waste’. So, survival is key — but why not hunt harder than ever for ways to thrive?

4. Think outside the box: 

When everything is different, we cannot think the same. One thing to consider now is that open innovation is important but utilising internal minds is vital too. On this note, each corporation has taken their own unique steps. X5 Retail group has launched a special intrapreneurship program and MTS has a new program for employees with the goal of bringing in outside thoughts — to mix open and internal innovation. Ford has realised that younger employees can bring fresh insight and can be involved in work that they weren’t initially hired for — as a way to reallocate resources who still have some level of knowledge of the company and its workings. New ideas can be brought to senior executives quickly, through the online channels which are exclusively being used for communication at this time. From Hutchison 3’s side, there is always a need for quick innovation to improve value added services for customers, and this may be an excellent time for startups to proactively approach telcos with their solutions. Finally, for Kimberly Clark there is a desire for quick turnarounds, meaning that the employment of relevant and innovative solutions might be expedited in this time, which encourages innovators to think broadly and actively.

5. Stay positive and keep working: 

This does not require too much elaboration but was a noticeable general takeaway from points made by the innovation leaders. This could be your time!

The second Axis Webinar was a lively interaction with diverse corporations and some clear insights for startups and large companies. Stay tuned for our next webinar, giving a new look at working with US investors from two leading venture capitalists.

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