Around this time, a month ago I was landing back on South African turf at Cape Town International Airport coming from an inspired few days at the One Young World summit hosted in Bogota, Colombia at the Agora Bogota International Convention Centre. I was at the summit as a Thomson Reuters delegate and there was no preparation for the monumental few days it had been getting an opportunity to represent the continent and women in technology and innovation. I’d landed at El Dorado International Airport with 2 unnecessarily large (my mother’s words) grey bags and a brown purse ready to be a woman in technology with style, and to network and minister impact while getting and exchanging the tools of the social intrapreneurship trade.
Founded by David Jones and Kate Robertson in 2009 with the vision to invite young leaders across the global to formulate and share innovative solutions for pressing world issues, the summit has grown to be one of the largest has grown to be one of the largest gatherings of young global leaders. This year brought over 1500 delegates from 196 countries, all with the goal in mind to share stories and the work that our peers and their organisations and businesses are doing, and so that we may connect and be empowered to create greater social impact and add value.
The first day of the summit allowed me to meet with other Thomson Reuters delegates from all over the world, who are doing incredible social impact work inside and outside of the company, and to register for what was going to be an unforgettable experience. I had been connecting with one incredible colleague from the Philippines via social media prior to the event, Emmanuele Marie Parra, a Publishing Specialist by trade at Thomson Reuters and currently the Thomson Reuters Foundation Ambassador. It was great to connect with Emmanuele and hear more about her passions outside the business as an Anti-human trafficking advocate. If one thing is certain, it’s that it’s great to be with a company that values what you value, and invests in one's ability to make you even better at what you're technically skilled at and are passionate about , and at Thomson Reuters, there’s many millennials who take heed to that!
The unofficial second day, and first day of workshops and speaker engagements started at 08h45 with a session highlighting Nobel Peace Laureate Professor Muhammad Yunus’ objectives on the impact and giving the delegates insight into the work that he does. Yunus’s talk was bedded in his work in financial services innovation to alleviate poverty and build economic development across Asia. The talk was followed by a series of other engagements that unpacked case studies and actions that fellow delegates are undertaking to drive change in their communities, which undoubtedly was the most inspiring part of the program. The day stretched to cover topics ranging from anti-corruption, to using social media for good and powering sustainable development in communities. The workshop that left me underwhelmed and I was really looking forward to was hosted by The Bristol-Myers Squibb Foundation, with a prime focus on "How to Create a Public Private Partnership". It was more of a presentation with a Q&A session afterwards than being workshopped the tools of the topic at hand, engaging with the content and delegates at hand.
It was day two’s programme that was the one that I was looking forward to learning from and engaging with. There’s a clear dependency of innovation and profit from global companies driving diversity and inclusion as a business agenda. What policies need to be implemented to plant a seed of urgency in the public sector? African youth and women are still marginalized groups who are not as active economically as their men and senior counterparts, what actionable conversations are being had and actions implemented? These were some of the questions that I was hoping to get answers from, and more particularly, shared case studies from the corporates on how they’re holding themselves accountable for the actions of their businesses. I didn’t get all my answers.
Themed on private and public partnership and corporates doing business in alignment with Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), the content was promising. It was the “Fighting Racial Injustice” panel that included Black Lives Matter activist Deray McKesson, Apple’s Vice President of Inclusion and Diversity Denise Young Smith, reporter Aamna Modhim and moderated by KPMG’s Global Head of Citizenship Michael Hastings that was one of the most transparent conversations on the main stage. The discussion unpacked using social media as tool to not only fight racism but create awareness around it, while Denise highlighted on need for the ascension of black women corporate and her role at Apple. The crux of the conversation brought out how technology, journalism and intrapreneurship are empowering people with the potential to disrupt societal structures.
Hosted by The Circle of Young Intrapreneurs looking at “How to Profitably Do Good: Social Intrapreneurship?” was a workshop that I’m happy I attended. The moderators really looked at some of the issues that we were passionate about, and imparted tools and techniques, and the network to be able to be supported and do the work. And recently, a Circle of Young Intrapreneurs -Johannesburg chapter powered by fellow delegates at PWC was launched, which was incredibly attended, sharing One Young World anecdotes and imparting intrapreneurial learnings for the aspirant intrapreneur and the corporate millennial who's an innovator at heart or by trade.
So, a month has passed, now what?
I’m so grateful to have had the opportunity to attend the summit and be exposed to a global network of my peers who are doing incredible and inspiring work in their companies and communities. As a One Young World Ambassador also working on a project that focuses on the business value of having millennials as part of the workforce by creating sustainable innovation through the backbone of SDGs – I’m very excited about this one. The other goal to go back in 2018 as a coordinator, mostly with the intention of connecting the Africa delegates and growing that community and connecting it with the opportunities that we all have to create positive change.
Until next year One Young World!
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