Earlier this year Bamboo Crowd met with Jeremy Basset, Unilever’s former Head of Innovation who initiated and scaled The Foundry – Unilever’s global platform to connect with start-ups, to talk about the connection between start-ups and large corporates and what the future looks like for corporate innovation.
It is no secret that many corporates have been taking big steps, building multiple capabilities within their organisations to facilitate working with start-ups across a range of sectors. These innovation hubs give start-ups the ability to scale and cultivate relationships with global corporates affording unique opportunity and mentoring.
Partnering an international corporate with a small, local start-up might initially seem like an unlikely collaboration however, they have many qualities to exchange and it is now common place. Start-ups work quickly and take risks, but often don’t have the expertise or capabilities to scale globally. Large corporates are more risk averse and are steeped in bureaucracy and structures that slow down their ability to implement new ideas and methods. They benefit from this partnership that allows both parties to expand into markets they would struggle to achieve alone; this helps to ensure they maintain a competitive edge.
As the marketer who led the Unilever Foundry, Jeremy and his team realised that “the future had been made but not scaled”. Innovation is paramount to the future of Unilever, but the best way to utilise the developments in technology and future thinking was to collaborate with start-ups rather than straight investment. Unilever have now created a global platform that partners with start-ups to accelerate growth and solve business challenges. This has driven innovation in an agile and flexible way and given both parties a beneficial outcome.
For example, Omo, one of Unilever’s detergent brands, partnered with aLavaderia, a Brazilian laundry and dry-cleaning company. They had an app subscription service to deliver fresh laundry to people’s doorstep; the partnership saw them using Omo products to wash and dry clean. By working with Unilever, they were able to use their knowledge and experience to mentor and help aLavaderia tackle challenges that they faced. Furthermore, The Foundry were able to address the key challenges that occur through the partnerships that are made between small start-ups and large internationals. This considers the developments in customer-experiences: