Big corporations and nimble (IoT) start-ups have a complex relationship. On the one hand, start-ups often aim to disrupt a corporation’s core market. On the other hand, corporations frequently absorb new technology, talent, and innovation by acquiring start-ups. It stands to reason that there is a certain amount of suspicion and strain on both sides.
But this relationship need not be only about tension. In fact, corporations and start-ups can learn a lot from each other, and innovate the IoT through collaboration for mutual benefit. The key is in setting up partnerships in a way where both parties can play to their strengths, and mutually help steer clear of weaknesses.
Merging agility with processes
For example, start-ups tend to excel in agile development. The well-known mantra in start-up-land is “move fast and break things” – in other words, it is not just acceptable but desirable to build prototypes quickly and learn from mistakes; to sprint through iterations quickly and change direction if necessary; to value speed and insight over scaling and polish. This is great for coming up with ideas and prototyping them into existence.
At the same time, corporations have the structure and processes to take a product to the next level: mass manufacturing, distribution, marketing, and large-scale partnerships are what they excel at. They possess the success factors – Six Sigma, scaling, long-term planning, not to mention funding for basic research – that can smooth the global rollout of a complex hardware or software product.
For a partnership to work well for both sides, these aspects need to be combined. The start-up partner, or start-up unit within the corporation, needs resources and a large degree of autonomy with little overhead. And for the corporation to contribute its strengths, arrangements need to be made for the start-up’s ideas to feed into readily available processes and communication channels.
Berlin’s start-up ecosystem is thriving
Over the last few years, Berlin has grown into a massive IoT start-up hub. This happened in a relatively short time, thanks to an ideal mix of factors:
- Relatively inexpensive rents and the low cost of living mean lower costs for office space and wages.
- The city’s cosmopolitan atmosphere attracts talent from around the world.
- With its lively music and cultural scene as well as its many parks, Berlin boasts an excellent quality of life.
- A large body of students means access to up-and-coming local talent.
- The local community of start-ups has grown organically and managed to preserve a culture of collaboration, sharing, and mutual help, and there is a lively meetup and conference scene to foster networking and the exchange of insights and ideas.
Berlin is the perfect place to launch this kind of collaboration between larger organizations and start-ups. The city’s start-up scene is already a star on the international stage; add to that its emerging hardware and IoT ecosystem and it fairly crackles with energy. Because of its central position in Europe – both economically and geographically – Berlin is a great place to start writing a new European success story. And with a strong grounding in Germany’s great engineering and manufacturing tradition, the city offers promising potential for hardware and software start-ups.
The local start-up ecosystem is ready to build closer ties with industry, and both sides stand to profit significantly. This is what Bosch ConnectedExperience is all about.
The idea is to foster the exchange of ideas and insights in both directions. A large corporation like Bosch can learn about agility and the all-hands-on-deck mindset that gives start-ups a competitive edge in bottom-up innovation. At the same time, start-ups can learn from large companies about scaling, manufacturing, and global rollouts.
At Bosch ConnectedExperience, the makers of the IoT ecosystem – whether they work in start-ups or corporations – can experience firsthand the huge potential in sitting down together in hack challenges and starting to collaborate across organizational and cultural borders.
Together with Alexandra Dechamps-Sonsino, I am curating the Bosch ConnectedExperience. Meet you in Berlin!