For a group, the co-creation of a startup consists of partnering with an external company to create one or more startups that will be dedicated to achieving a business objective defined by the group: new growth opportunities or new uses, often induced by the digital revolution.
To this end, the company collaborates with an external partner: a corporate startup studio or a consulting firm. Together, they review the needs in terms of innovation to find effective levers to achieve these objectives. In concrete terms, the group and the studio create one or more startups together.
In doing so, the corporate startup studio, a specialist in the startup ecosystem, intervenes from the very beginning of the process. Gilles Debuchy illustrates: “We work very quickly with the company, we seek to understand in detail the pain-points and the opportunities that arise for them (and for their customers), then we seek to design the right solution or solutions to meet them. This is our ideation phase. These solutions are beta tested by our teams, the startup(s) we consider to be sustainable are created, a co-entrepreneur is recruited. The startup is up and running, the process is extremely agile and fast.”
Aware of the need to develop disruptive innovation vehicles, groups are often uncomfortable or hindered in the internal deployment of radical innovation. They, therefore, use new processes to access this innovation model (incubation, corporate venture capital, acceleration, intrapreneurship). But today, for a group, the co-creation model seems more promising in many respects. The financial risk is reduced, and above all, the co-created startup is by design aligned with the group’s strategic objectives. At the end of the process, the company is in a privileged position to incorporate it (spin-in).
As in the traditional context of acceleration, co-creation with a corporate startup studio will provide a startup ( that is aligned with the innovation needs of a group) with the time and space to grow and mature, as well as the resources needed to accelerate its development. Ben Yoskovitz, the co-founder of Highline BETA, sums up as follows: “Co-creating with corporate startup studios makes it possible, through outsourcing, to free the constraints frequently imposed upon disruptive innovations in large organizations”.
Co-creation, therefore, makes it possible to limit the impact of the intrinsic inertia of these large groups on the emerging startup. “Even when we talk about “ultra-fast” developments in a large company, the time scale is measured in quarters,” says Gilles Debuchy, founder of Wefound. When for a startup, time is measured in weeks and sometimes even days. In a macro-economic environment marked by the digital transition (which many large group leaders observe with some trepidation), the ability to deploy effectively will often make a difference. That is, between the one who will become a leader and the one who will remain on the side of the road, everything can be decided around his Time to Market, and his ability to put it into action.
Like Saturn devouring his son, the multinational group can be a formidable predator, which is also its strength. The major French groups are indeed war machines. At ease with international competition, their managers are formidable hunters used to absorb their competitors, like the French champions of acquisitions such as LVMH, AXA or Bolloré. However, as they are highly normative and, above all, serene in regulated systems, large French companies are by their very nature not well adapted to radical innovation, as Amazon or Apple can be.
In this case, having the temptation to develop a startup in its midst is like asking a lioness to raise a gazelle. Of course, this could happen, but it is better if the lioness is well trained if not tamed. But in this case, the risk is that the lioness will lose her competitivity in her natural environment. And this is precisely why the contribution of the corporate startup studio can be essential if groups want to integrate disruptive innovation without compromising themselves.