One of the most exciting things to be at this age is to be young (by age and mind), African and being a part of an organisation at forefront of contributing to the knowledge economy and leveraging the power of data and technology to empower economies and communities. We’re also at a time where the emerging market that is Africa has the opportunity to craft its own the Fourth Industrial revolution perception through not only commodity prices, but to diversify away from these resources and move into sectors which will leverage the opportunity to use open innovation as a tool to shape Africa’s Future Agenda.
Open Innovation is a term coined and promoted by Henry Chesbrough, professor and executive director at the Center for Open Innovation at Berkeley . The professor described it as “ … a paradigm that assumes that firms can and should use external ideas as well as internal ideas, and internal and external paths to market, as the firms look to advance their technology. The boundaries between a firm and its environment have become more permeable; innovations can easily transfer inward and outward. The central idea behind open innovation is that in a world of widely distributed knowledge, companies cannot afford to rely entirely on their own research, but should instead buy or license processes or inventions (e.g. patents) from other companies.”
The holistic idea of open innovation relates to creating profit and community from technology convergence of perceptions and an efficient way to operate and find solutions.And although outlined what it is, it is NOT Just crowdsourcing and one dimensional transactions, it’s to foster accelerate creative and business value for all stakeholders involved.
The Global Innovation Index is created and published by INSEAD, the World Intellectual Property Organisation (WIPO) and Cornell University and it covers 127 economies around the world and uses 81 indicators across a range of themes. Although no African countries emerged in the Top 10 of the list, Kenya (80) and Tanzania (96) represented the sub-Saharan African region as innovation players to be on the lookout for. Products and innovations like MPesa, Jumia, Ushahidi and Obami are incredible examples of the type of innovation that can and has come out of the continent.
My argument stems at how better accelerated in proving the concept and taking the product to market could these products have been, had the application of open innovation been applied.
Is it not about time that Africa heightened the advocacy and importance of open innovation? And at that, not just leaving it to one sector, but push collaborative open innovation – the interconnectedness needed to scale a Future Africa Agenda .
One of the most fascinating cases for me is the idea of a Sandbox, which is a cloud based capability that provides access to samples of organisations content and tools and where there’s tangible value for all stakeholders part of the transactions. On Africa’s potential alike, I believe we’re ready for a sandbox, and to this point, not only because Africa data is costly but finding credible sources of data has proven to be incredibly difficult.
Organisations like Fintech Sandbox have shown the value of a sandbox for startup partnerships in Boston, CodeSandbox Live in providing value for real collaboration between developers and Any API which has over 500 open APIs that have benefitted many entities. These entities show us what is possible with the world of open innovation in both emerging ad developed markets.
With the many 2020, 2030 and future plans that Africa has for itself, the concept of open innovation to drive Africa’s Future Agenda is a tool that not only invites the strengthening of intra-African and global knowledge trade , but the opportunity to collaborate with stakeholders in the private, NGOs and public sectors to empower Africa’s success.
Images : EOH and Schema Open Innovation
On Wednesday (06 September) morning, I had the pleasure of spending a couple of hours at SMME Roadshow Opportunity at the Cape Town International Convention Centre and sharing the stage with phenomenal intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and public sector officials alike. The conference is one that showcases the opportunities to micro, small and medium enterprises with the objective to link these entities with an opportunity to for economic development across the private and public sectors. This is an annual roadshow that takes place in four cities across South Africa, and I had the opportunity to deliver the work that is being done at Thomson Reuters Labs, but also in understanding the framework between how corporate partners with startups.
Intrapreneurship is a term that’s been gathering some steam over the last few years, and the train is moving faster than ever before as corporates have actualised now more than ever the opportunity to adopt the DNA of the startup innovation character. Now more than ever, the c-suite group is making way for the new c-suite titles, gone are the days of a company only having a CEO, CFO and CMO. Because of the urgency to pivot the company’s innovation life cycle, the large organisations are employing Chief Technology Officers (CTOs), Chief Innovation/Information Officers (CIOs), Chief Digital Officers (CDOs) and Chief Growth Officers (CGOs). Companies have designed and brought in this talent of executives to not only do research and execute, but be the bridge between data and customer-centric and the growth of a company. And through this c-suite reshuffle, there’s a pipeline that’s being brought in by these new generation c-suite leaders for large corporates to incrementally and disruptively innovate externally – collaborating with startups.
Just as Brillianaire Consulting‘s Managing Director, Octavius Phukubye encourages, that “Collaboration is the new innovation”, this accounts for corporate across sectors, and not just the cool kids of MNOs and Banks with the rise of curiosity and innovation in the financial services sector. For a startup, there are so many benefits to partner with a corporate, with an opportunity to scale not just reliant on funding. Mechanisms like data and data models, mentorship, paid proof of concepts and connecting the startups with potential customers and business partners are just a few, so as to how fruitful and innovative this kind can partnership can be motivating.
As a startup, before even approaching or pitching to the large corporate, here are a few things that I believe you should keep in mind:
- 1. KYS (Know Your Startup)
In financial and risk, there’s a term known as KYC (Know Your Customer), which is essentially the process of a business identifying and verifying identity of customer. In this respect, as a startup founder, know the value that you will be capturing for the corporate through your talent, structure, processes before the LinkedIn stalking commences. Have your startup ducklings in a row.
- 2 What do you need besides funding?
Scale – to accelerate and grow. What do you need to scale your startup besides funding? How will you move from ideation to product development, or whatever stage you may find your startup in? Is it data, access to market or monetary investment? And once it’s evident that it is indeed money that you need to scale, be transparent about what you need it for. Who knows? The corporate might have the resources you’re looking for.
- 3. Understand the Innovation Journey
Once the design thinking and creative workshops have been done, priority projects and products outlines and NDAs signed and sealed, where to from here? And how long will it take to get to the finish line? How many more people and departments will the idea go through, and where does our role start and finish? Essentially, understand the culture of intrapreneurship of the corporate that you’re working with, and the processes and systems in place.
There are many phases involved in developing a solid corporate-startup relationship, and working together on a proof of concept might be the first or last stage of the relationship. In whichever way, so much work and time goes into these kinds of partnerships and they don’t always work out. However, in your desire to working with corporates and partnering with them, ensure that you understand the framework of the partner and your value as a startup in the period of the enthusiasm from both parties, to the follow up and eventually the implementation.
Image source: Daniel Jajoura