Coca-Cola Founders: A New Model for Creating Startups?


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“We’re trying to create a win-win,” David Butler, Coke’s global VP of innovation and entrepreneurship, says about the new Coca-Cola Founders platform. “First we partner with experienced entrepreneurs and invite them to join our global co-founder network.

Next we connect them with a senior-level advisor inside one of our business units and go deep into the challenges and opportunities we’re facing at Coke. And finally, we give them open access to Coca-Cola’s relationships, resources and reach before they develop an idea into a startup. Our goal is to help our founders grow big new, high-growth businesses while helping us grow Coca-Cola at the same time.”

This is an interesting model and one that is different than the more typical corporate accelerators and incubators. You can read about the difference below where I have inserted the most relevant pieces from the FAQ page.

One thing that I like in particular about this model is that it can help Coca-Cola scale the idea and concept of open innovation quite fast within their organization. The process of connecting the experienced entrepreneurs with the internal Coca-Cola employees is critical for this happen. Here I hope that Coca-Cola will be able to answer one simple question that everyone of their employees who will be involved in this initiative will ask themselves:

What’s in it for me?

It is easy enough for everyone to see the big picture here. If this works, Coca-Cola as a company becomes more innovative, but that does not necessarily provide enough incentive for an employee to really chip in. You need to find out why this helps them on a personal level as well. People are simply too busy today to find time and the mental capacity to work on new projects – especially those that changes how you work today – so you need to make this intellectually stimulating and emotional engaging on a personal level.

Well, I really look forward to follow this initiative. It is also another sign that the innovation dynamic between big companies and startups is red-hot at the moment.

Here you get the snippets from the FAQ on their website:

How does it work?

We search for experienced entrepreneurs in startup communities around the world. Next we invite the founders to join our Co-Founder Network. Once they join, each Co-Founder team creates a new legal entity (they own 100% of their startup from day 1).

Then we open up Coke’s assets – our relationships, resources and reach – and connect them to a local, senior manager inside our business as an advisor.

This structure creates an “inside” connection to Coca-Cola while maintaining the flexibility and speed required to build a startup. We act as a “launch partner” from Day 1. Once the team validates their business model and the business is ready to scale, we convert our investment to a minority share of equity based on market valuation.

Is this just another accelerator?

No. Most accelerators conduct three to six month programs and focus on financial investment and mentoring. Our model is very different. We invest in founders first, before they have a startup or even an idea. We don’t dictate the problem they should solve and we give them the time and attention required to truly validate the problem, design the best product/market fit and find a business model to create a sustainable company.

And, because they’re part of our global Co-Founder Network, they’re part of a larger team of founders all trying to do the same thing around the world. The network helps each team find talent, make contacts, share ideas (and it makes the journey a little less lonely).

What can the Founders platform offer entrepreneurs that they can’t get somewhere else?

Our founders have an unfair advantage in the relationships, reach and resources that Coca-Cola provides. It takes a lot more than money to build a business. Founders routinely leverage our equipment, event partnerships, media relationships, distribution channels, and expertise in multiple areas such as marketing, tax, supply chain, and more to test, build and scale their ideas.

Having untethered access to this wealth of assets, backed by one of the most trusted brands in the world, is something that most founders can only dream about.

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Stefan Lindegaard
Stefan is an author, speaker, facilitator and consultant focusing on open innovation, social media tools and intrapreneurship.


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