Nearly 130 years to the day after its first breakthrough beverage was sold, foreshadowing a boom into the biggest brand in the world, Coca-Cola publicly announced the 10 emerging companies selected for its startup commercialization program, The Bridge. The Atlanta-based activation will create mentorships and connections — a bridge — between local entrepreneurs to the red and white empire and its partners, Capgemini, Cox Enterprises, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) and The Weather Company.
“The program consists of tactical training (storytelling and negotiation, for example), as well as sessions where the startups are paired with potential customers inside each corporation to discuss what a pilot implementation might look like,” said Carie Davis, the managing director of The Bridge: Atlanta. “Over the course of the seven-month program, the goal is to help launch pilots between the sponsors and the startups. We teach both sides how to work together faster.”
The five global giants hope to bolster business with projects that invigorate technology-enabled solutions in consumer engagement, consumer retail, supply chain, marketing innovation, or health and wellness. The southern startups set to provide this fresh perspective are DecisionIQ, FIXD, Streem Labs, Storj, Converge, Mogean, Gimme Vending, Authomate, TEQ Charging, and ENGAGEcx.
“Any time that large enterprises can come together with startups to create value is a win for the entire community,” said Cory Hewett, CEO and co-founder of Gimme Vending, a startup digitizing the vending machine market. “The Bridge: Atlanta not only provides invaluable content on how to navigate corporations, it also gives us unprecedented insights from senior executives with whom we wouldn’t otherwise easily access.”
Hewett and other founders are excited to convert corporations into customers through insights and resources provided from within the sponsors’ businesses. The startups will be able to test their technology in markets where they likely would not have access to otherwise.
“We are focused on working with Cox, because their Automotive division is a very strong player in the dealership software and services space,” said John Gattuso, co-founder of FIXD, maker of a sensor that sends car maintenance updates to smart devices (and whose team is featured in the header image). “We believe our technology perfectly compliments their existing dealership offerings and it affords them a great opportunity to learn about the future trends present in the industry. It is great that large companies are working to foster innovation by collaborating with companies in the Atlanta startup scene.”
Atlanta is the first destination of The Bridge in North America — fittingly as home to Coke’s global headquarters and several neighboring Fortune 500s. It began two years ago in Israel as a way for Coke to partner with entrepreneurs who could design and solve technology problems faced by it and other large corporations.
“Instead of creating a typical accelerator program, they heard from the community in Tel Aviv, where the program was first launched, that the biggest need of startups was a way to convert corporations to customers — they needed ‘a bridge’ into the corporate landscape, connections to the right people, insights into how to implement technologies across their business and ease in creating agreements for pilots,” said Davis.
The startups of Bridge: Atlanta will work from The Gathering Spot for the greater part of the next year. Following its undoubted success, the next step is for the program to be replicated in other cities across the U.S., Europe, Africa, Asia and Latin America.