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Why and how big enterprises should think like startups?

Why and how big enterprises should think like startups?

Friday December 08, 2017,

5 min Read

In the last decade, when was the last time you came across innovative products or disruptive services offered by big enterprises? Yes, there might be a few but not enough to create a significant impact in terms of innovation and mass adoption. On the other hand, every year, a new $1 billion startup is born, challenging industries with their panache of solving problems and creating an accelerator model.


I am often amazed to see big innovative breakthroughs come from startups that often struggle with issues like cash, experience, and resources whereas corporate giants with surplus cash cannot even “think different” or be “innovative”.

According to my perception, there is a need for big enterprises to cope up with the ever-changing volatile market and act like startups, which are innovative and sublime. However, before following the trodden path, corporates need to build the startup DNA, which is the formula behind successful startups and inculcate it within their working culture.

In my last 10years of experience, I have worked with high profile MNCs and have been a part of a startup in the capacity of developing the product, team expertise and market, all from scratch. I know both sides of working style.

Here are few core entrepreneurial traits that help startups to do exceptionally well. If they are adopted and developed by corporate giants, it helps them to foster the startup mentality within their culture.

These entrepreneurial traits are:

1) Work on an accelerator model

2) See problems as opportunities

3) Daily innovation

4) Endorse intrapreneurship

5) Work with startups

I will explain each of these in detail.

#1 Work on an Accelerator Model

A startup accelerator model will help big organizations to identify upcoming market opportunities. These opportunities can be leveraged to create a distinctive impact by having the right talent mix, mentorship, access to technology, and funds. This accelerator model can be operated in 3 different ways: internally, outsourced or partnered.

Giants like Microsoft and Google have already launched accelerator model and have selected various startups in the field of emerging technologies like SMAC (social, mobile, analytics, cloud). Engagement with startup disruptive technologies helps big corporations to pursue ambitious goals of going further and faster in digital transformation technologies than the rest of the industry.

#2 See Problems as Opportunities

Entrepreneurs constantly challenge conventional thought process, questioning the reasons for its existence. They have an innate hunger to identify world’s problems differently, gain a new perspective and find solutions.

Similarly, big enterprises have to work at the ground level to understand the ever-changing market and user behaviour and see all the possible opportunities in existence rather than clamming up and protecting the past.

To do this, they can partner with either startups or consulting companies to understand the right product-market mix. One basic and smart approach would be to identify the problem and then align emerging technologies with it as a solution, rather just to buildsolution-driven ideas.

#3 Daily Innovations

One basic advantage startups have over big enterprises is the freedom of experimentation and innovation. In big corporations, employees are trained not to make any mistakes and rather asked to follow certain instructions given to them.

Here, to think like start-ups, the culture of innovation and creativity should be fostered. Separate innovation incubators should be built where a team of experts from diversified field should be formed for building a culture of innovation. Corporate giants have strong capacity to take disruptive risks but what is missing is the attitude of taking risky steps.

#4 Encourage Intrapreneurship Culture

Companies like Google, Microsoft, Intel have launched Intrapreneurship program and have encouraged their employees to participate in it. Google’s famed “20%time”strategy broughtto us products like Google News, AdSense, and even Gmail. The “20% strategy” is a feature offered by Google where its employees can spend 20% of their productive time on working on anything their heart desires, with the condition that Google retains ownership of the product.

In startups, every team member has ownership of their work, and the whole business gets structured in small profit and loss units. Such practice brings a lot more clarity to the whole team as everybody is working towards a common goal of achieving positive ROI.

Now, such practices can certainlybe implemented in big enterprises where employees are given an opportunity to think different. Incentivize Intrapreneurship program to ensure better participation. Reward employees for the most innovative ideas, and recognize employees to promote this program.

#5 Work with the Startups

One of the best ways to think like startups is to work with them. Either you acquire them or partner with them. During my enterprise journey, I could work with few good digital marketing startups to which we outsourced some important projects. We wanted economical and positive ROI driven solution. In response to this, they formed a team and established an innovative process, which was quick and economical.

Startups could work in tighter timelines and hence, save money. I see such collaboration as an opportunity for big enterprise employees to learn from startup methodologies and also to see how it is applicable.

To conclude, big companies should actively engage with startups for new opportunities, applied technology and cultural mixture. Startups can be a real strategic partner to big enterprises, who must find their ways of engaging with entrepreneurs.

Associating with startups will certainly help big corporate to stay relevant in the market, and by doing so, they can bring a culture of creativity, flexibility and innovation.