Corporate Venture Building Is Out to Save the World. No, really.
Combine the vast resources of a corporate and the speedy and disruptive spirit of a startup and what do you get? Powerful, innovative solutions at scale to solve our most pressing problems. It’s really that simple, and it’s what corporate venture builder Creative Dock has set out to do.
Words: Emily Phillips; Photos: archive & Unsplash.com
There is a lot going on in the world right now. We’ve got big problems and time is running out. That’s why we need to examine issues from different angles, come up with innovative solutions and not be discouraged by possible initial failure. This is the only way to avoid the looming crises.
These big problems call for equally bold solutions, and the world’s private sector, especially its largest corporate players, has a prominent role to play. After all, no matter the sector — finance, consumer goods, manufacturing, mobility, energy — corporate products and services not only drive the global economy but also boast touchpoints with (nearly) every person on Earth, every single day. All those touchpoints can make a world of difference when it comes to addressing our common problems. One (enormous) question remains, however: how to best leverage this power for positive stakeholder impact, and quickly?
A powerful solution: Corporate Venture Building
The best solution would leverage corporate strengths — their reach and resources — and mitigate some of the challenges inherent in such large organizations. After all, big, bold moves aren’t necessarily the first qualities associated with complex and established companies. And on the other end of the spectrum, the upstarts and disruptors of this world aren’t numerous enough to have that same level of impact. But what if there was a way to effectively merge the innovative ethos and quick-to-launch-and-scale successes of more agile startups with the resources of an established, global company?
“Corporate Venture Building is designed to do exactly this. This option — externalizing the conception, building, and scaling of new business models, products, and services — is a way to launch disruptive products within a traditional system quickly.”
With its corporate clients, Creative Dock Group combines an innovator’s daring, paradigm-busting approach, plus the fearlessness and zeal of entrepreneurs, and finally the resources — financial, operational, and strategic — of a corporation to bring much-needed impactful businesses to market.
Recently Creative Dock Group hosted its growing team of hundreds for an all-day event. As part of the program, five company leaders took to the stage for a panel discussion that explored how the emerging business model of Corporate Venture Building can unlock new innovation perspectives for corporate impact.
A call to courage
Until now, one common corporate innovation approach has been to build in-house teams to develop new business models and launch breakthrough products and services. As many of these teams approach a decade since their establishment, the consensus is that in-house corporate innovation doesn’t always work as hoped. “Despite all the thought leadership and all the good people…the solutions that corporate came up with…didn’t move the needle,” explained Manuel Hörl, Head of International Ventures at Creative Dock. Many corporate innovation teams are re-evaluating, looking to find ways to generate more impact, despite structural issues that get in the way.
One cultural issue at play is often risk aversion, according to Michal Reynaud, Chief Innovation Officer at IdeaSense, a product and services design firm which recently joined Creative Dock Group. He emphasized the need to gather our courage and embrace risk, rather than capitulating and choosing the safest route. “Big older companies are afraid of risk. They really want to play everything safe and be successful on the very first attempt… corporate venture building must (embody) this bravery and courage to face the fear of failure.”
“By adopting an external approach with Corporate Venture Builders, corporations enable heightened creativity and empower diverse approaches that are executed with a different mindset.”
As Linda Ambruster, Director of Innovations at Creative Dock, says: „Things can change in an instant. If you’re sitting pretty and assume that the world won’t change or evolve — especially when peoples’ livelihoods and safety are on the line — this is just irresponsible leadership. And besides the imminent fact that consumers and conditions change, incumbents find themselves challenged by unforeseen competitors.” Her message is pretty clear. “If you don’t disrupt yourself, someone else eventually will.“
Taming the chaos
While corporations may be criticized for their unwieldy size, processes that slow things down, and structures that hinder more innovative approaches, startups are often scrappier, smaller, more chaotic and thus, admittedly more of a risk to work with.
“Well-established, traditional companies may shy from embracing the chaos. Which begs the question: how much chaos is necessary for the effective development and launch of innovative products?”
Heinrich Arnold, Innovation & Technology Business Leader at Creative Dock thinks that there needs to be more chaos baked into the current corporate innovation system. Baby boomers, the generation that currently leads the private sector, “know how to achieve goals. And the focus is one of their favorite words. This is what has dominated the economy these past 25 years…optimization. And innovation was cut off.” Felix Staeritz, Co-Founder and CEO of FoundersLane and Board Member at Creative Dock Group agreed, and, like Arnold, stressed that this chaos, though necessary, must still be managed. “I’m a big believer that in order to do it to scale, and keep things professional, you need to have structures in place. That’s what we (aim) to bring — clear phases for design, testing, MVP development and scaling.”
Solutions at scale, or: The Unicorns Are Not Coming to Save Us
The challenges facing us touch all aspects of our lives, explained Staeritz: from our buildings to our shoes, “whatever we have, we need to reinvent (it). (Waiting) for startups (to solve problems) is wrong…all of those assets are already there, so let’s use them smartly, and change the business models.” Arnold echoed this sentiment — the bold solutions we need are so many, and so pressing, that waiting around for unicorns to save us is foolish. We cannot wait for startups, he emphasized: “In Europe, 1% of new jobs are created each year. At this rate, it will take us 100 years to renew the European economy. That’s too long. We need to mobilize the 99% of the existing economy.”
As the world faces prolonged uncertainty and increasing challenges, its largest companies can help to move the needle by putting their weight behind new, disruptive solutions. To make this happen quickly enough to address acute crises, corporations should consider the Corporate Venture Building model.
“This combines the best of both established corporations and startups in order to develop bold, innovative products and services, fast.”
Business as a force for good
“When I was 16, I started my first company,” Staeritz explained, “and in the last 23 years, I never stopped…because I believe it is about human beings actually solving problems.” The big, complex problems we face call for bold, innovative solutions. And time is of the essence — we are called to navigate this brave new world with speed and smarts.
Corporate venture builder Creative Dock Group is working to win the trust of companies to help them do exactly this: navigate an uncertain moment by leveraging their resources and assets and invest in external know-how to build and scale innovative solutions.
About Creative Dock Group — joining forces to lead a new category
2022 has been a year of exciting developments for Creative Dock Group, not least of which have been the acquisition of four companies on its onward march to become Europe’s leading Corporate Venture Builder. The four include Zurich-based Spark Works and Prague-based IdeaSense, two teams specialized in cutting-edge innovation practice, as well as the Berlin-based Rohrbeck Heger, with its unique expertise in strategic foresight, and leading venture builder FoundersLane.
At long last and just in time for cooler autumn temperatures, CD Group’s Prague headquarters welcomed the entire company — with colleagues journeying from as far-flung spots as Riyadh and Cape Town — under the banner of “Together in One Dock” for a day of keynotes, presentations, speaker panels, a mini hackathon, and of course, coffee breaks. The event was a chance to spend valuable time together in person, get better acquainted with all five entities, their projects and purposes, and ultimately get on the same page under the leadership and vision of CEO Martin Pejsa.
“With the four acquisitions now merged into Creative Dock Group, the stage is set for realizing ambitious goals: both to build and lead a new breed of innovation power, Corporate Venture Building.”