How Coca-Cola Is Harvesting Innovation Energy From Startups

15 December, 2016 / Articles
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In 2013, after senior leadership at The Coca-Cola Company challenged its IT staff to find ways to accelerate innovation, Alan Boehme realized that rounding up the usual suspects would not get the job done. Instead, Boehme, an enterprise IT veteran with deep connections in Silicon Valley, realized that he had to find a way to bring the vibrant energy of startups to the problems his company was facing.

The result is a program Boehme, Chief Technology Officer, Chief Innovation Officer & Chief Architect at the Coca-Cola Company, and his team created called The Bridge, which held its third showcase event in Atlanta on September 27, 2016. In short, The Bridge is a systematic way that a large organization can engage with startups to move the needle with respect to urgent problems.

Here’s how it works in a nutshell:

Internal sponsors are found who have problems and some budget to help fund The Bridge program. In later iterations external partners such as Turner have joined the program.

The internal sponsors help define a set of relevant themes, like customer engagement, marketing innovation, health and wellness.

Startups are found that have technology relevant to those themes.

The startups are offered marketing and other training to participate in the program.

Startups connect with internal sponsors over the course of the program, with a view to doing a proof of concept with their technology at Coca-Cola.

At a public showcase event, all the progress made during the Bridge program is celebrated and the startups are introduced to customers and partners.

So far Boehme and his team have run three cycles of the bridge, resulting in a variety of projects that have applied the technology to both marketing and operations functions.

Here are some of the startups that Coca-Cola has engaged with through The Bridge:

  • Cimagine allows a tablet to become an augmented reality system for projecting what a cooler, vending machine, signages, or other point of sale material would look like in an retail environment. Store owners can take a photo and virtually set up equipment. Using this technique reduces delays and return rates.
  • Bringg is creating an “Uber” for the enterprise provides a platform to support delivery of products/services on demand.
  • Fusic offers an innovative music and film creation , sharing and social platform allowing the user to be part of the theatrical video clip or music video and share with their friends
  • Weisbeerger is a big data analytics platform that provides in-depth insights to beverage use-age and facilitates on data driven  sight marketing and promotional campaigns.
  • Endor out of MIT implements the concept of “Social Physics” to gain behavioral insights into consumers with minimal effort.
  • Dov-e creates a way to use inaudible sound waves to trigger actions on mobile devices (promotions, coupons , experiences ) delivered through TV, Radio, movie screens speakers etc.

The result of The Bridge is that Coca Cola has been able to quickly adopt new technology in ways that would have never been possible using traditional processes.

“Innovation is an engine, a journey toward something new that can be frightening. It must be pursued and fought for,” said Boehme. “The things you achieve through perseverance and by taking risks are worth all of the obstacles that you are facing.”

Sidestepping the Immune System in IT that Can Thwart Innovation

It is important to point out that Boehme and his team are not proposing that the current way that enterprise IT works should be tossed out. Traditional IT at a healthy and well-run company helps a business operate in a stable manner, reduce costs, adopt new technology in a way that minimizes risks and solve new problems with a certain type of innovation.

The science man and innovator, Fernando Fischmann, founder of Crystal Lagoons, recommends this article.

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