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How can we bring large corporations and startups together?

by Scott Henderson

At the Startup Rally on February 18, 2013, the Dancing Elephants panel featured corporate innovators discussing how their companies interact and benefit from a strong startup ecosystem. Gillan Hawkes from The Home Depot, Don Browning from Turner Broadcasting, Paul Judge from Barracuda, and John Avery from Panasonic shared their thoughts and insights.

In this video segment, we ask the question “How can we bring large corporations and startups together?”

Audio Transcript

Transcript services provided by TranscriptsHQ.com, a proud Atlanta startup.

John Avery, Panasonic:
I like the breadth of activities that Hypepotamus puts on, for example the Startup Rally event versus the Hackathons and gravity sessions. I went to an unconference last weekend at the Georgia Tech campus where you actually come to the event without knowing what the agenda is and the people at the conference make the agenda as you are there. It’s kind of a crowdsourced conference, which I thought was a pretty cool idea.

From my perspective as a large company, one of the ways we struggle with small companies is the legal relationship. We are used to dealing and talking with big companies and so all the paperwork and legalese around the relationship is heavily based on that need. So we are still trying to figure out the legal framework and the kind of paperwork that you need for a big company like Panasonic to deal with a startup when you are just trying to evaluate an idea. I think it will help us all if we can standardize on that idea in Atlanta as a framework.

Paul Judge, Barracuda Networks:
Big companies and large companies, how do we better interact as a community? One of the things that Silicon Valley has been excellent about doing is the merging between the giants and tomorrow’s companies. And they realize this because each of their giants started off as a startup not long ago. So there is a lot of interaction and you are able to learn quickly about the problems that the large companies have and how can we learn from that and develop solutions that they will need a few years from now.

Seeing large companies here on stage is a good step in the right direction, but also as startups, we cannot be shy about calling on the large companies. We have to remember that getting in there and getting feedback on what problems they are having is useful. We don’t have to knock on their door and sell them something everyday. But just getting in there and hearing about what’s worrying them right now, what are the problems that are on their list that they don’t know how to solve right now, this is important. Those are the things that really drive the ability to predict problems that will be big in the future. And there is a lot of that happening.

If you look at VC firms, they often will put an entrepreneur in residence in place and their role is to spend a lot of their time to go meet with CIOs, CTOs and really just hearing what problems they have. So as a startup, these are the types of things that we need to be doing when we are interacting with large companies. We need to be really listening and figuring out what their problems are instead of always trying to sell something to them from day one.

Don Browning, Turner Broadcasting:
I’m going to quickly steal the obvious answer here and that is community. Atlanta is getting that sense of technology and startup community. There is a lot going towards that such as Hypepotamus, Strongbox and other co-working spaces. You are starting to see it happening and I think as enterprises, we have to get out more, get out from behind our desks and chain-link fences and come work with startups like you guys and get involved in the startup community.

At the same time, I think the startup community needs to embrace the enterprise when they come knocking because it easy to pre-judge the enterprise guys, because you know, they are doing some share point thing. But we need to communicate, talk and share ideas and whenever I go down to Hypepotamus, I am always talking with people about what they are doing and how they are doing it and what technology they are using. So having a community and having a place to get together and talk is most important.

Gillan Hawkes,The Home Depot:
Yes, it is about creating more and more opportunities for all of us to come together. I think we all have roles to play and I think we have all said the same thing. What we desperately need from people like you in this room is a change of mindset and skillset, a change in the way of approaching problems that we have in spades. It is that dialogue with small companies at early stages where we can help them shape how they are thinking about going to market, what their value proposition is. Or dialogue with later stage companies where they are actually ready with a viable product and need a big anchor client to really make their name and actually start helping them pay the bills. So there are opportunities at all stages of a company and it’s just creating a network, a community, and opportunities to bring to the table that we all have to offer and I think Hypepotamus is doing a great job at that.

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