Yes–we’ve previously written blog posts on the bureaucracy and lack of innovation in many big businesses. However, there are many big companies that “get it” when it comes to innovation–not just 3M, Apple and Coca Cola. Internal entrepreneurship programs in “sleeper” companies are intriguing. Dan Schwabel of Millenial Branding brought up the famous Skunk Works program of Lockheed Martin that produced the U-2 and SR-71 Blackbird plane designs from an intrapreneurial program internally back in the day.
Schwabel writes, “companies are starting new entrepreneurship initiatives because they need fuel for innovation, desire top talent and need to sustain a competitive advantage. Smart companies are catering to entrepreneurs, allowing workers to pitch their ideas, and even funding them. They are holding entrepreneurship contests, investing in startups and bringing on entrepreneurs in residence (EIR). In the war for talent and innovation, companies have to think entrepreneurially in order to survive and thrive:
Intrapreneurship is on the rise
Companies have embraced intrapreneurship to drive innovation, stay ahead of the competition and as a recruiting tool. This trend has been driven in large part by Generation-Y, a generation of entrepreneurs that want to reinvent the business world as we know it. Google is a great example of a company that understands this. If you work there, you are in a startup culture within a major corporation.
Corporate entrepreneurship contests
Companies are using .. contests to engage their own workforce and as external recruiting and branding tools. Ernst & Young, for instance, has “The Innovation Challenge,” which is an internal competition where employees come up with new service offerings for their clients. PwC, another major consulting company, runs the “PwC PowerPitch”, which is an innovation contest where the winning team receives the sum of $100,000 to implement their idea. Amazon Web Services has the “Start-Up Challenge,” which is a competition for start-ups that use its Web, e-commerce and cloud-computing technology to build their infrastructures and businesses.
Companies are investing in startups
Companies are investing in startups instead of just acquiring them. The most recent example of this is Microsoft’s “Bing Fund”, which is a new angel fund and incubator program that seeks to partner with entrepreneurs that focus on the mobile and web experience spaces. Last month, Dell announced the “Dell Innovators Credit Fund,” which provides entrepreneurs up to $100 million in financial and scalable technology resources. American Express announced last year that they would invest $100 million in digital commerce startups that would help fuel their digital transformation.
Entrepreneurs in Residence
Both Google and Dell have recruited EIR’s to stay ahead of the curve and to advise them on startups. Stacy Brown-Philpot has been an entrepreneur in residence at Google Ventures since May. While Stacy never started her own business, she led operations for more than forty different products, including Google Search, Chrome and Google+.
More brands will start to bring on EIR’s in the future, especially in the technology industry, where acquisitions and investments are the norm. EIR programs are promising because they have knowledge on what startups are worth investing in, can oversee entrepreneurship programs, and can be used to attract new startups into corporate ecosystems.
Entrepreneurship/intrapreneurship programs drive business results
Industry experts believe that 30% of large companies now provide seed funds to finance intrapreneurial efforts. One of the most notable successes comes from 3M, who created the “Bootlegging Policy,” which is a program that allows employees to spend 15% of their time at work doing creative projects. In 1987, Art Fry took advantage of this program to create the ultra profitable “Post-it Notes” product.
Google, Facebook, & PwC have not only followed suit, but “upped the game! It’s interesting to mention a CPA firm in a sentence about corporate innovation alongside such stalwart consumer brands. Yet, it mid-sized and large businesses are to compete globally for talent, brand presence, and profits, more companies who may not be in innovative industries must learn how to spur intrapreneurship!