7 Tools Connecting Innovation Teams with External Innovation

Corporate innovation teams evaluate and engage with multiple sources of external innovation. Keeping track of these sources, as well as the diligence process that follows, is frequently performed manually and siloed within an organization. New tools are making it easy for innovation teams to centralize external innovation tracking, and share interesting solutions within their organization.

The result is a sustainable external innovation pipeline – where promising innovations are efficiently evaluated and passed to the best internal resource for execution. Here are our favorite tools for managing the process – from ideation, to startup scouting, through to piloting:

1. Ideation: Betterific

Betterific hosts Innovation Challenges where teams can win cash prizes, and connect with brands and corporations to get innovative ideas heard. Open-innovation brainstorms connect ideas with corporate needs and foster new relationships. Challenges are currently live — join a brainstorm!

2. Industry Scanning: Resolute

Resolute harnesses powerful AI to uncover tech that is below the radar of most observers. Searching across millions of articles, Resolute delivers synthesized, comprehensive results that guide teams through the research phase and navigate key decisions.

3. Government-funded Innovation: SBIRSource

Offering services for both large and small companies, SBIR Source helps innovation teams identify government-funding technologies and innovations.

4. Startup Relationship Management: SwitchPitch

SwitchPitch provides the most comprehensive data set available on over 115,000 startups, easing the search process for corporate innovation teams. The platform was purpose-built for innovation teams to find startups earlier, and manage those relationships. Over 900 startup ecosystems are tracking, including accelerators, universities and co-working spaces globally. Full CRM functionality simplifies the process of startup engagement.

5. Risk Assessment: Early Metrics

In this increasingly complex world, Early Metrics assesses the growth potential of innovative ventures. Their ratings bring transparency to corporations, investors and entrepreneurs. Their proprietary rating methodology provides accurate evaluation of the potential of growth of any innovative venture. 

6. Innovation Project Management: GLIDR

GLIDR takes a new approach to product management software that puts feedback, product discovery, and validation at the center. GLIDR centers product management around discovery and validation, leading agile teams to more successful product launches. They primarily serve innovation teams, product management, and startups.

7. User Experience Testing: Alpha

Alpha empowers teams with the fastest way to learn about future customers with advanced targeting of a marketplace of 100 million B2B and B2C users worldwide. Alpha’s features extend to aid through the development process with tools to aid design and reporting process.

On the same topic – we hosted a webinar recently featuring several of the tools on the list. We cover startup partnerships done right – from identifying through piloting -watch here:

Innovation Readiness Level:

Technology readiness levels (TRLs) are a method for estimating and communicating the maturity of technologies during the acquisition phase of a program. Developed by NASA during the 1970s, the acronym is now used widely across different types of technologies. A Technology Readiness Assessment (TRA) evaluates program concepts, technology requirements, and demonstrated technology capabilities and determines the TRL on a scale of 1 to 9, where 9 is the most mature technology. 

The original NASA TRL definitions are as follows: 

  • Level 1 – Basic Principles Observed and Reported
  • Level 2 – Potential Application Validated
  • Level 3 – Proof-of-Concept Demonstrated, Analytically and/or Experimentally
  • Level 4 – Component and/or Breadboard Laboratory Validated
  • Level 5 – Component and/or Breadboard Validated in Simulated or Real Space Environment
  • Level 6 – System Adequacy Validated in Simulated Environment
  • Level 7 – System Adequacy Validated in Space

Largely used today by the United States Department of Defense (DoD) and the European Space Agency (ESA), it’s time to bring TRL to an everyday use: Innovation Readiness Levels (IRL) — a convenient homograph for the acronym for “In Real Life.”

SwitchPitch wants your help!

SwitchPitch is working on developing the stages most useful to corporate innovation teams.  If you evaluate startups by stages, we’d appreciate if you could complete our submission form here. You’ll get a summary of other corporate responses if you complete the form – a bonus!

Largest Percent of Innovation Growth in
South America

In the summer of 2018, a team of interns at SwitchPitch collected data from LinkedIn. Searching by region for innovation titles established a baseline for the 2019 team.

By continent, South America demonstrated the largest growth in their number of innovation titled positions, increasing over 65% from 4,000 positions to 6,600 positions.

A largely overlooked market for startup partnerships, this emergent data may surprise corporations which look to Europe and Asia for innovation partnerships. Before 2011, three of the top accelerators in the US, Y Combinator, 500 Startups, and Techstars, didn’t accept a single Latin American startup. 500 Startups was the first to accept Latin American startups in 2012, kickstarting the turn of American attention to the southern hemisphere. According to TechCrunch, Silicon Valley-based accelerator Y Combinator invited Colombian startup, Platzi, to join in 2015. Since 2016, more than five Colombian startups have joined the renowned accelerator, along with startups from Chile.

2018 saw the first South American unicorn, after Didi Chuxing’s acquisition of Brazilian rideshare app 99 in January.

The Association for Private Capital Investment in Latin America (LAVCA), established the Latin American Startup Directory to identify, follow, and catalog this booming ecosystem of startups. LAVCA identified 256 Latin American startups in the 2018 directory, up from 155 in the 2017 directory, and 100 in the inaugural list. This growth bolsters the growth of innovation titles tracked from LinkedIn.

Asia also shows notable growth with a 33% increase in innovation titles from the previous summer. Asian, specifically Chinese, startups demonstrate a marked increase in blockchain and crypto innovation specifically, estimating that 25 percent of blockchain projects originate in China alone, a stark contrast to America’s 14 percent.

Despite the notable growth uncovered in South America, the continent still represents only a small percentage of innovation titles globally. Their smaller starting number of titles, however, should not undercut the amount of growth achieved within the past calendar year.

Breaking down the European market further, growth discovered broken down by nation can be observed below.

South America’s growth outpaces any nation in Europe, truly bringing the region into the fold and competitive with other nations.

*It is important to distinguish that not all of the Latin American startups were necessarily captured in collecting data from South America, including startups in Mexico, Puerto Rico, Guatemala, and other nations.

How Corporates Pitch to Startups

Every corporation has a version of 6 or 12 month planning outlining goals to be accomplished and an associated budget. The goals often require contracting with outside partners, including startups especially for innovative corporations that want to maintain or build a competitive advantage by looking for the “next new thing.” To be successful, the key question is “How and where do corporations look for startups?”

How it Works

Goals often highlight the need to fill a capability gap. Subject matter experts (SMEs) inside the corporation are very articulate about what exists today and what’s missing. However, they don’t always know what the best solution might be. Instead of spending time online or going to conferences to search with a vague idea of a solution, it’s more efficient for the SME to create a business use case and a reverse pitch.

The business use case is a description of the problem, the current state, the desired future state and possible solutions that have either been considered or already tried. The business use case creates structure for the challenge and provides the necessary background for the startups who are seeking to understand how they can help the business. The business use case can be further analyzed to estimate the business value, KPIs, budget, and potentially an RoI.

Getting it Done

The reverse pitch is structured to recruit startups to work on the business use case. The reverse pitch is a short summary of the business challenge which can be circulated to startups through a sourcing channel such as SwitchPitch. The reverse pitch strategy works well across the corporation and with a diversity of topics. Corporations can have just one or dozens of reverse pitch searches playing out at any one time, maximizing returns with minimal effort.

Startups registered with SwitchPitch or other sourcing channels will received the reverse pitch with the business use case background. Startups will self-select if they can help the corporation. Startups apply to the reverse pitch. Because the reverse pitch is connected to a current need, the business is aligned and willing to discuss potential solutions, moving quickly to implement a proof of concept or even larger scale test. The corporation and startup matchmaking friction is minimized.


The reverse pitch is tested and it works. Recently a SwitchPitch and N3 Innovation client posted a reverse pitch for a cutting edge sensor technology. Within the two week deadline, four viable startups responded and were available to discuss their offer in more detail. The startups saved business development cycles and the corporation saved time in research and sifting through hundreds of startups to find the few that are the best match for the business use case.

Want to learn more about a reverse pitch or business use case? Contact Amie Gray at N3 Innovation or Michael Goldstein at SwitchPitch.

Guest post written by Amie Gray, Founder of N3 Innovation

SwitchPitch Launches Italian Partnership with Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini

SwitchPitch is excited to announce a partnership with Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini (FGB), the leading Italian operator of innovation hubs and startup accelerator programs. The partnership will have three components:

  • Promoting SwitchPitch’s startup relationship management (SRM) platform to Italian enterprises
  • Promoting FGB’s innovation consulting services, leveraging SwitchPitch’s platform
  • Hosting a joint innovation event in Milan promoting enterprise innovation programs to an audience of invite-only startups

Many large Italian companies are focused on startup engagement through open innovation, including Enel, TIM, Ferrero and more. While SwitchPitch has gained traction and popularity in many European countries, it has no presence or exposure in the Italian market. FGB operates six startup accelerators throughout Italy and is a major player in the Italian startup ecosystem. Having an Italian partner connected to the Italian startup community adds an invaluable resource to Italian enterprise prospects.

Through this new partnership with FGB, SwitchPitch will now offer Italian enterprises a platform for startup engagement, as well as managed services to handle Italian-focused startup research and diligence. FGB also brings a technology valuation tool to help enterprises assess the value of startups’ technology.

FGB and SwitchPitch are planning joint Fall event in Milan to help connect innovative startups with European enterprises. The format of the event will follow SwitchPitch’s previous event model – large companies pitching to startups – with one important change. Enterprises will pitch their overall innovation and startup engagement programs – rather than a specific initiative. Enterprise participants will meet one-on-one with relevant startups to better assess fits within their organization.

The combined forces of FGB and SwitchPitch provide a compelling open innovation solution for enterprises; as well as a business development resource for Italian startups. Our partnership combines the platform benefits of SwitchPitch and the high-touch, consultative approach of FGB. SwitchPitch is excited to partner with such a well-respected and talented team as FGB.

About Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini

Fondazione Giacomo Brodolini – FGB – is a private and not-for-profit foundation developing, applying and disseminating evidence based policy design, delivery and evaluation at all governance levels. FGB promotes dialogue and a continuous knowledge exchange bridging the academic and policymaking communities, governments, civil society and private sector.
FGB is an active player providing technical support and services to foster economic development, social cohesion, employment and  innovation through: research, data gathering analysis, forecasting, project work, dissemination and communication, network management, vocational training. Nowadays FGB promotes local development at an urban and rural level by setting up innovation hubs, enterprise accelerators, startup incubators.

About SwitchPitch

SwitchPitch enables enterprises to manage all innovation/startup relationships through our centralized Startup Relationship Management platform – enabling them to easily vet, manage and disseminate innovative startups internally to get deals done.

SaaS Pricing: Unlimited vs Per User

Cloud computing created many disruptions. With accessible data, new services and new types of connected devices emerged. Software-as-a-Service (SaaS) business models grew out of cloud computing’s rise – leveraging on-demand software, scalable to accommodate many concurrent users.

SaaS pricing models are based on pre-cloud “in-the-box” software pricing. Most SaaS providers still charge customers on a per-named-user basis: more users = more expense. Until now. Gartner’s recent SaaS study outlines a change in SaaS pricing models. By 2025, 40% of software currently priced per-user is expected to transition to other pricing models, such as unlimited users or tiered pricing based on consumption – according to Gartner.

Why the change?

Collaboration tools and centralized data require lots of users to access and contribute information. Widespread adoption is essential for many SaaS platforms to create value – think Slack.

Per-user pricing works for some industries where only a small number of users need to access information or for essential services. However, for information-sharing platforms (collaboration, innovation, CRM), per-user pricing is the antithesis of widespread adoption. Meaning the more users, the greater the chance of success. This is due to several reasons:

  1. information is shared – not siloed
  2. data is up-to-date
  3. high internal engagement leads to better outcomes

SaaS was born out of a rebellion against in-the-box software – think Salesforce’s “No Software” beginnings. Now is the time for the next rebellion: No User Pricing.

What’s next?

The change from per-user to per-company pricing will be slow and nuanced. SaaS providers will bridge the shift with tiered user pricing; pricing per division; and other gimmicky ways to restrict usage.

To thrive, enterprises need company-wide, unfettered access to information and shared platforms. Negotiating budgets for additional seats discourages usage and is unnecessary. Mission-driven SaaS providers prioritize usage over incremental fees. Usage equals value. Value equals happy customers and better retention. In the end, both enterprises and SaaS providers win.

At SwitchPitch, we are ahead of the curve. We see the value in innovation collaboration and are passionate about enterprise + startup engagement. Engaging as many corporate users as possible – rather than limiting users – ensures the greatest outcomes for our clients and their startup partners.

Open Innovation: 3 Startup Hesitations and Enterprise Remedies

Startup engagement is high priority for many large companies. It makes sense: get the latest innovation to support corporate strategic initiatives from fast-moving startups. Typically, this startup engagement is handled by a corporate innovation team through programs like Open Innovation, Challenges, Labs and other startup-facing enterprise opportunities.

In the past, startups targeted business units directly to pitch their solutions, rather than going through a centralized “front door” for innovation. Using LinkedIn and email-matching tools, startups broadcast their message to any corporate contact with relative ease. But here’s where the roadblock happens: business units are primarily focused on running their business lines, not evaluating each and every startup that comes their way.

So to make the process work, enterprises have centralized all of their innovation needs. This relieves business units of the vetting responsibilities. It lets them focus on their core business. Then innovation teams take charge; they create a streamlined process to guarantee a better outcome on what they do best.

Just because enterprises shifted vetting to innovation teams, doesn’t mean startups know why they should use this approach. I’ve heard many hesitations from startups when suggesting they pursue the innovation team within large companies. The reasons? Here’s what startups perceive most often:

  1. Budgets are within business units
  2. Sales cycle made longer with innovation department
  3. Relationship lost in internal contact handoff

So what should innovation departments do to ensure startup engagement remains strong? Let’s look at each issue and potential solutions.

Budgets within business units

Startups believe Proof-of-Concept (POC) budgets fall within business units, rather than innovation departments. Why? Because that’s what venture capitalists, advisors and even large companies tell them.

Seasoned entrepreneur Andy Byrne, CEO of Sequoia-backed startup Clari, advises startups that 95% of enterprise innovation teams don’t have budget to spend on partnerships. Whether accurate or not, that’s what startups believe.

To remedy this perception, effective innovation departments promote partnerships that they’ve successfully completed. Then they offer transparency about POC budgets and decision-making process. They let startups know if small testing budgets are within the innovation team; and at what point the budget comes from business units, etc.

Startups need to know WHY they should use innovation teams to navigate enterprises. Is the process more effective? Efficient? Better outcomes? Tell them.

Sales cycle made longer

Enterprise sales cycles are long – especially for cash-strapped startups. For innovation teams, slow cycles can be frustrating. For startups, they can be deadly. Long and burdensome legal reviews and traditional procurement procedures are typically an overkill for startup partnerships – especially for proof-of-concept tests. If startup partnerships are a mandate within your organization, streamline the bureaucracy. Not only will your startup partners be happier, word will spread that your company is startup-friendly.

An example comes from one of SwitchPitch’s corporate clients, Chick-fil-A. Innovation and startup partnerships are a corporate priority and Chick-fil-A takes them seriously. Instead of starting with their standard agreement, they marked up our agreement. Their legal team made light-touch, startup-friendly changes. From our perspective, we could easily understand their intentions and resolve without outside counsel – a huge cost-savings!

We focused our resources on security questions, integrations, and executing the partnership – rather than over-papering the perfect, high-touch document.

Relationship lost in handoff

Let’s face it – passing a startup from innovation to business unit can be a difficult transition. Innovation teams typically scout, analyze and present findings. Business units (BU) are focused on their day jobs – running the business.

I’ve heard from too many startups their frustrating tales of getting lost in the corporate shuffle. One of the top issues we hear from enterprises considering our platform is their frustration with gaps in handing off startups to business units.

When the innovation team organizes startup data and relationship in an easy-to-digest format, the business units get up to speed faster. Relationship communications, notes, sales decks, etc. all provide BUs with background and context for the introduction.

Transitions are seamless and momentum continues. Startups feel prioritized and like an important partner and communication standards are established.


Enterprises and startups largely recognize the benefit of partnerships. While startups historically pitch to business units; enterprises are centralizing startup engagement with greater frequency. Enterprises typically publicize how they engage with startups. Startups need to hear why they engage and follow established processes.

When corporate innovation teams are attuned to startups’ perspective and potential hesitations, they can address startups’ perceived concerns proactively and ensure the best outcomes.

Want more information on SwitchPitch’s SRM? Check out details here


CRM vs. SRM: Innovators Buying Guide

Relationship management tools are moving towards specialization – beyond customer relationships to a variety of specialized relationships. Procurement, HR, Innovation, Compliance and more have their own systems of record. While customer relationship management platforms (CRM) provide a general tool for contact centralization, many corporate functions have unique dynamics requiring specialized tools.

What does this mean for innovation teams? As we covered in our recent blog post, Chief Innovation Officers are the new Chief Marketing Officers. CIOs and their innovation teams have a new crop of tools catering to their specific needs.

For startup ecosystem tracking, Startup Relationship Management platforms (SRM) are addressing specific characteristics of corporate + startup relationships. Unique functions include keeping tabs on the ever-expanding startup universe with constantly-changing data; and two-sided marketplace interactions. This blog post compares how CRM and SRM tools stack up for startup ecosystem tracking.


Ask any colleague if they enjoy using your company’s CRM. With near-certainty, the answer is no. You’ve heard the complaints: user interface is dated; adding information is too time-consuming; everyone uses their own tracking system; data quality is poor..and on and on.

CRM tools launched in the 1980s – starting with ACT!, then Siebel Systems – and shifted towards cloud platforms in the early 2000s. CRM usage became standard practice due to email proliferation and need for customer communication tracking.

Like Microsoft Office, CRM tools are generalist tools – not specialty tools. Lowest common denominators define generalist tools. For CRMs, these denominators include:

  • Known universe: Customers are known entities, inputted by the CRM owner
  • One-sided: Customers cannot contribute information to your CRM
  • Cloud-hosted: Customer data sits on cloud servers, not local networks

In most enterprise relationship management dynamics, the above attributes work just fine – no issues. However, for specialized instances like startups / innovation tracking, CRMs are inadequate.


Innovation teams frequently scout, analyze and manage startup relationships. For startup relationship management, the dynamics are completely different than traditional customer relationships. Startup ecosystem tracking is defined by:

  • Expanding universe: Startups launch daily and must be tracked prior to a relationship
  • Two-sided: Lots of back and forth data to determine corporate + startup fits and enable proof-concept tracking
  • Bifurcated data security: Startup profiles need to be cloud-hosted – available to all. Enterprise analysis / notes must be secure and local – this information may move markets!

Re-imaging a tool with these characteristics takes a new start – not something that begins with an old framework.

SwitchPitch started with a simple premise: focus on the needs of corporate scouts to make scouting more efficient and effective. Rather than fulfilling many corporate relationship needs – we focus exclusively on startup relationship management – a term we coined!

SRMs like SwitchPitch facilitate relationships by enabling startups to create profiles with work history – similar to LinkedIn profiles for individuals. Two-sided dynamics help expedite corporate + startup engagements at two points:

  1. Pre-deal when scouting / analyzing
  2. Post-deal during Proof-of-Concept

Startups contribute sales decks, NDAs, security questionnaires, metrics, etc. to keep things moving forward. Startups’ profiles are supplemented with multiple 3rd-party data sources (Crunchbase, AngelList, MatterMark), assisting enterprises with startup evaluation.

Organically-created profiles do not get 100% ecosystem coverage, so SwitchPitch and other proactive SRMs add new startups automatically. Startup data may include:

  • Sector and technology tags helping enterprises filter startups based on needs
  • Compiled scores measuring growth, awareness and other factors. These scores provide objective insights into startups’ growth stage and trajectory

Our clients require reporting designed with scouting and engagement in mind. Ecosystem tracking, radars for new startups, comparison one-pagers and alerts are now standard SwitchPitch functionality.

Who gets access to all this data internally? Let’s look at the corporate + startup touchpoints:

  • Accelerator applications
  • Technology review
  • Investment diligence
  • Proof-of-Concept and more

Startup engagements frequently span multiple fronts, so enterprise access level controls are needed (ex. legal, ventures, M&A, innovation, technology). Each function requires a combination of shared and private data. SRMs accommodate these needs with flexibility. Hybrid data storage and flexible access levels have become standard SRM features to accommodate innovation teams.

Speaking of access, CRMs nearly always charge per user or license for access. Internal adoption and usage is imperative for managing startup communities – more internal users contributing data creates a more valuable platform. At SwitchPitch, we learned that unlimited user pricing removes adoption barriers by providing ALL relevant stakeholders with access.


Corporate + startup engagement changes rapidly, with many moving parts:

  • Startups come from unexpected industries
  • Tangentially-related technologies emerge – facilitating usage of your products
  • Startup inbounds become unmanageable to evaluate

When deciding which model is appropriate for your organization, consider the long-term implications of access, data, inputs, adoption and pricing – comparison grid here. When tracking rapidly-changing innovation, does the incumbent toolset suffice?

Want more information on SwitchPitch’s SRM? Check out details here

Case Study: BAE Partners with J&F Alliance

Challenge:  J&F Alliance Group is an emerging tech upstart company, developing Augmented Reality (AR), Virtual Reality (VR), and Mixed Reality (MR) ModSim software applications, as well as providing IT and logistic support services, for both military services and commercial clients.  As an upstart in a relatively unknown field, AR software development, it is difficult to widely market the company’s services.  While members of the J&F Alliance Group have attended several conferences to demo the company’s AR software technology, finding a receptive customer was difficult due to the broad nature of most conferences.

Solution: Glacier Point and SwitchPitch joined forces to bring decision makers and relevant startups together. The goal of the matchmaking process is to reach a signed deal between large companies seeking technology and business advantages with startups using lean and aggressive business models on cutting edge technology.  Through this matchmaking process, J&F Alliance Group was introduced to BAE Systems, Inc., a multi-billion-dollar aerospace and defense company serving the U.S. Department of Defense.

Result: Working with Glacier Point and SwitchPitch, BAE Systems was introduced to J&F Alliance Group and their AR software applications.  Within a month of meeting, J&F was under contract to BAE to run three separate pilot programs using their technology solutions.  BAE found the J&F solutions applicable, not only to their current programs but to their corporate functions as well.

While J&F heard stories of how large companies often take advantage of startups and their intellectual property, BAE Systems not only signed a contract with J&F but worked extensively with them.  BAE’s contracting department provided contracting and legal support for J&F so that they met all of BAE and DoD requirements.  Even with the contract coming at the end of the fiscal year and the BAE contracting staff swamped with end of year tasks, BAE still took the time to work with J&F, ensuring everything was for them to work together.

The impact of working with BAE has been a game-changer for J&F.  The company grew in terms of employees, from 4 employees to 12 employees, and revenue increased over 40%.  Working with BAE allowed J&F to create jobs and scale their operational and developmental budget appropriately.  JarMarcus said “We hear people all the time talking about the issues that small businesses have when working with large companies, but I can tell you that our experience with BAE Systems has been nothing but Great and a wonderful learning experience for our company”. Working for a large company like BAE, J&F now has increased resources, credibility, and connections for new business development.

7 Ways to Track Startup Engagement

Enterprises are engaging with startups in unprecedented ways. Many enterprises have well-established procedures for tracking startup engagement – AT&T, Unilever, Coca Cola all have large-scale startup engagement programs. However, keeping tabs on the ever changing data – both external and internal – is becoming overwhelming.

We spend a considerable amount of time discussing startup engagement best practices with Fortune 500 companies. Here’s what heads of innovation tell us they prioritize most in startup engagement:

Sourcing innovative startups

Nearly all established corporate innovation teams have well-developed startup ecosystem partnerships. Accelerators, VCs, coworking spaces and universities are among the top sources of referrals.

But limiting partnerships to these sources present challenges. Chiefly among these is tracking startups outside of enterprises’ core focus. More and more, innovation is industry-agnostic: Solutions focused on healthcare have applications in financial services or aerospace & defense. To truly track all relevant startup innovation, enterprises must focus BEYOND their immediate industry, with a global focus.

For example, BAE Systems recently identified a healthcare augmented reality solution – J&F Alliance – that was not focused on aerospace & defense. BAE signed a deal with J&F via the SwitchPitch platform to assemble sensor payloads for UAVs. The partnership was struck because BAE looked beyond defense industry solutions and found the most relevant innovation for its need.

External startup data

Who are the funders, founders, clients? Enterprises use this startup data to evaluate which startups have solutions that can scale. Startup data sources include Crunchbase, Angel List, CB Insights and MatterMark – all of which are useful for investment evaluation.

For business development data, such as startups’ client list, project history, and client ratings, enterprises need to dig deeper. SwitchPitch captures this data specific for business development evaluation, making enterprise / startup engagement more efficient and effective.

Custom startup data

Custom data connects external solutions with internal needs – it shows how startups fit into enterprises’ business units. Data examples include:

  • Business Benefit
  • Partnership level
  • Targeted Use Cases
  • Pricing Model

Data may be provided by enterprises – or by startups – depending on the nature of information desired.

One of SwitchPitch’s clients, a leader in the communications industry, uses our custom data to create a pipeline that compares and contrasts how different startups would integrate into their business units.

Startup-managed profiles

When startups create and control their own profiles, interesting things happen. Whole startup teams are engaged; startups’ current client information is up-to-date; even enterprise-specific data can be tracked – meaning that startups can contribute unique data specific to enterprises’ needs / use cases. This marketplace model lends itself to effective, efficient startup engagement.

But often, too many enterprises limit themselves by using the single-sided format of a database. Minus collaboration, minus a global approach. Only through a marketplace like SwitchPitch can enterprises utilize a two-sided platform, enabling a “front door for innovation” – a centralized portal where startups create a profile and engage with enterprises.

Simple Interface

The best tracking systems and procedures are only as good as the inputs. CRMs, spreadsheets and other solutions are designed for general data capture. But all too frequently they don’t deliver the employee engagement necessary for effective data capture.

So how do you encourage employees to track and enter data? Employees should want to engage and invite startups to join the platform. Make the platform intuitive. Make it easy. Make it fun.


Showcasing startup tracking data in an intuitive format is key to getting buy-in and ongoing support for innovation programs. Every organization is different and has different metrics, so reporting should be flexible and customized to track and showcase specific initiatives and outcomes. Not only does reporting show what is working, effective reporting also highlights blind spots.

Single Voice

Multiple conversations with different divisions leads to confusion both internally and externally. Startups may be left with the impression that these corporations are not serious or efficient about startup engagement. Nothing kills a deal faster than lack of effective communication. Capturing analysis, notes, emails, custom data, tags – everything relevant – in a SINGLE place is critical to effective startup engagement. In other words, enterprises speaking with a single voice to startups gets deals done.


Startup engagement is a process – starting with scouting and ending with profitable business outcomes. Along the way, there are many paths enterprises may take. To summarize, the critical pieces are:

  • Scouting beyond immediate industry
  • Multiple data sources – including from startups
  • Consistent internal and external communication

Unifying these pieces in a seamless platform will provide a long-term innovation program with tangible and measurable results.

Enterprise Innovation: Measuring Value

Chief Innovation Officers of 2017 are the Chief Marketing Officers of the early 2000s – limited tools, few metrics, no concrete justification of performance. Marketing software’s rise began in the mid 2000s (see infograph below); and similar to marketing, innovation software platforms are starting to fill the void. Enterprise innovation is still a fuzzy discipline; but that is changing. As strategies and tactics become standardized and accepted, tracking performance becomes more straightforward.


Remember when Chief Marketing Officers started becoming commonplace at large companies? In the late 90s – as internet adoption took off – CMOs were a requirement for companies with an IPO in site. CMOs of the time had few measurement tools to evaluate their initiatives. Large-company CMOs I knew frequently company-hopped because they didn’t have the measurements to justify their large salaries.

The early 2000s saw the introduction of marketing tools, platforms and automation, making the CMO job much more qualifiable and measurable. Marketo, Pardot and other platforms began addresses digital marketing automation, and the industry began consolidating in the late 2000s – early 2010s.

The CMOs of 2017 are extremely metrics driven, tracking every detail of marketing efforts. They are vital to driving predictable revenue. (continues below graphic)



Innovation cannot be automated like marketing, so innovation tools will look very different from marketing tools. Innovation tools enable aggregating, tracking, and delivering tangible connections and outcomes.

Two central pieces to most corporate innovation programs are ideation and external innovation. Ideation – aggregating ideas – takes two flavors: internal and external. Platforms like Betterific and IdeaScale focus on gathering the best ideas from internal teams or external customers or clients.

External innovation is now an accepted way of adding enterprise innovation. Startups, SBIR recipients and university technology are all sources of external innovation. Tools like SwitchPitch provide the tangible metrics to track performance and calculate ROI. Metrics include startups engaged with, deals signed, revenue generated – all providing innovation metrics. Mapping innovation ecosystems are made easier with innovation platform tools like SwitchPitch, enabling the full scope of innovation to be identified and tracked.

Chief Innovation Officers are coming of age and so are the tools they use. To become influential, innovation departments need data / ROI metrics and successful outcome data. New tools are delivering these requirements and justifying innovation budgets – the same way marketing tools justify marketing budgets.

Corporate Venture Capital & Innovation Initiatives

Guest post by Mike Millard, founder of Pitch-a-Kid & AngelSpan advisor

Besides the amazing emerging technology, what else should corporations look for in startups? For those with time constraints and wanting the conclusion first – here you go.

Before you commit time and resources investing or partnering with any startup, make sure it has demonstrated regular transparent communication and performance reporting BEFORE you commit time/resources.


And now for the rest of the story.

Corporate venture capital is hot. From tech giants like Google to consumer product companies, many are getting in the game as an extension of its business development activities. Whether it is via in-house venture capital initiatives, or engaging young, innovative companies on a project basis (ostensibly for a first-look at new tech), corporations can’t move fast enough into this “innovation arena” to remain competitive and provide value to the customer.

The why does not need to be examined or debated here. The larger question is how.

Build, Buy, or Partner?
How to do you engage the innovative startup community in a fruitful and sustainable way to identify the right technology to fuel the overall corporate strategy? Building an internal venture capital fund is one obvious choice, but this does not alleviate what to look for when engaging with startups. The same goes for buying a startup, partnering with them, or even investing in them. How do you reduce your risk for knowing which startups are going to be better than others? Many talented professional venture capitalists understand people, technology, markets and have excellent pattern recognition to help identify promising startups. They also have access to more information than the average investor. But what about the rest of us? How can we reduce our risk by working with startups as we feel increasing pressure to innovate? With the enabling technologies of firms like SwitchPitch, many corporations are engaging innovative companies on a project basis to infuse the right technology, culture, and people on projects to deliver optimal results with reduced risk.

Just as private venture capitalists, angel investors, and family offices active in the direct investing struggle to find the right company, corporations also struggle with which companies they should choose when deciding who to partner with on innovative solutions and emerging technologies. And, just like investing in startups, the danger is in getting caught up in the ‘flashy bauble’ of the technology. Politics, inexperience, and pressure to find solutions all contribute to less than stellar outcomes for partnering with startups. The key to startups, as any experienced investor will tell you, is in the execution (Netflix vs. Blockbuster and Apple vs. Blackberry come to mind). First-mover advantage is sometimes a fallacy. The best technology doesn’t always win. But the companies that execute better along the startup lifecycle do much better in the marketplace regardless of technology.

Who is Likely to Execute Best?
Corporations, angels investors, family offices, and venture capitalists want to know who is going to execute the best – that is the ‘$64,000 Question’ for those of you old enough to remember the game show. They wish they knew as ultimately the desired return or partnership initiatives is related to the execution. All of the Excel models, presentations, strategy reviews, and marketing do not matter unless there is execution.
There are some patterns and clues some active investors are beginning to recognize, recently confirmed by a national survey done in conjunction with the Texas Venture Labs at McCombs School of Business at the University of Texas.
The survey results confirmed that entrepreneurs as a group that embraced transparency executed on their business plan (vision or idea) better than those that didn’t. Simply put, those that communicated better were more successful.
Investors surveyed confirmed this relationship was both:
* A corollary relationship – the more experienced startup CEOs (who tend to execute better) knew proper transparency/reporting to outside investors and stakeholders (like corporate partners) was part of their fiduciary responsibilities.
* A causality relationship – the transparency and feedback loop with outside investors and stakeholders helped the less experienced entrepreneur execute better due to the heightened engagement with those interested and willing to help them succeed. The investors had access to appropriate, timely, and useful information that allowed them to provide better guidance, stay more engaged, and avoid any surprises.

Corporate Best Practices and Startup Bad Habits
Anybody that has worked inside a large organization in charge with deploying corporate resources is familiar with the reporting requirements necessary to maintain advocacy and access to resources. It is just part of how big companies work.

There are monthly reports, quarterly reports, yearly reports, and reports that summarize reports. And they come is many shapes and sizes from HR goals to strategy objectives to marketing updates. As a whole – not so with startups.
Per the survey results, less than 1/5 of startups report on a monthly basis, and approximately 1/3 honor the information rights typical in any standard term sheet and report on a quarterly basis. There shouldn’t be any wonder why roughly 15% of companies in a ‘typical’ venture portfolio create all the profits of the fund! I think startups can learn from the corporate world from the required reporting – both internal and external. Transparency and reporting are simply the right course of action for success. Why then, do so few startups communicate with transparency on a regular basis when it can help them execute better?

Transparency, Standardized Reporting, Operational Performance Monitoring
Again, while this is standard procedure in the public market, and for internal corporate initiatives, it has not been adopted by the startup community as a widespread practice.
As a reminder, I do want to disclose that I am an Advisor to the company described below because they are the first to solve this problem in an ‘institutional-quality’ way.
AngelSpan is, in fact, providing structured message communication services for startups all over the country.
Just as there are investor relations for public companies, AngelSpan provides investor relations for private companies – startups. It provides message communication and consulting assisting clients to go through the startup lifecycle faster by keeping stakeholders informed and engaged with regular, structured, and consistent reporting. The founder was formally owned/managed a multi-family office, originally at 3000 Sand Hill Rd. He experienced this ‘information gap’ first hand as both an active angel investor and advisor to his clients’ angel investing activities. He wondered why startups don’t mimic from their corporate big brothers with communication practices.

AngelSpan is not a ‘DIY’ SaaS platform. Rather, it keeps its clients on a disciplined cadence of monthly updates and quarterly reports with information relevant for success. It makes sure its clients are reporting on the right content by incorporating the BellMason Diagnostic into their work – branded the SMART IR Report. This report allows the user to report on the operational, financial, managerial, and market in a format that investors understand and can quickly digest. Imagine as an investor if every one of your portfolio companies communicated to you on a monthly and quarterly basis using a consistent format. Imagine how much more productive your board meetings would be if you knew what was going on the last three months. Imagine how much easier your due diligence would become for a potential investment or partnership if you had 18 months of prior updates delivered to you.
The key is the operational performance report card detailing to clients how well it is executing along the startup lifecycle. As mentioned, it is about execution.

Better Outcomes
So how can corporations reduce your risk and increase your likelihood of success when partnering with startups? Before you commit time and resources investing or partnering with any startup, make sure it has demonstrated regular transparent communication and performance reporting. If investors simply focused their investing (or partnering) activities with startups that have already delivering proper transparency, would outcomes be optimized?
Based on my corporate and venture experience, I believe a resounding YES!

Mike Millard is founder of Pitch-a-Kid, and an advisor at AngelSpan. Mike is the former Executive Director of Innovation and Technology Commercialization, Ascension/Seton; Director of Research, Austin Ventures; Associate Director of Technology Commercialization/New Venture Creation, AT&T Knowledge Ventures.

Components of Corporate Innovation

We’ve covered the innovation landscape in prior posts, but today’s post deals with the innovation components within large companies. Where the process starts and ends, and how it is defined and implemented, are all important pieces in determining innovation program components.


Where innovation starts

The need to innovate tends to start with senior executives – who make broad proclamations and set broad innovation goals, according to a 2014 study by the Harvard Business Review. From there, a team is often tasked with defining strategy and tactics, defining goals and how those goals tie into broader corporate initiatives.

Most corporate innovation programs start by defining a strategy. Through workshops, roadmaps and meetings with other executives, strategy’s shape starts to form.

Outside consultancies – management consulting / innovation-specific – are frequently tapped to formulate a strategy. Agencies like Glacier Point in Aerospace & Defense and inCode – whose partners helped formulate the successful AT&T Foundry program – work with a host of clients to develop and implement innovation strategy.

Strategic plans frequently start with a consistent way to tap new ideas from internal and external stakeholders. Ideation platforms like Betterific and IdeaScale aggregate ideas from employees, customers or other relevant parties.

Executing on ideas

To execute on the innovation needs, corporations have several channels to pursue:

  1. Internal innovation
  2. Innovation labs (internal / external)
  3. External innovation

To manage internal innovation execution, companies use tools like Alpha to get to an MVP to determine initial results. From there, iterating will produce more reliable results based on feedback.

Supply chain innovation is a less common source for exploring innovation, however consulting companies like Tenzing are providing tangible results by turning to supply chain partners for innovation solutions.

External innovation is a big driver of new initiatives. Managing the external innovation process requires a broad view of the innovation landscape, including startups, government grant recipients, university technology and more. Platforms like SwitchPitch’s external innovation management platform make identifying sources, tracking internal communications and forming partnerships easy and efficient.

External innovation can take a few forms: Corporate innovation labs / accelerator programs are gaining popularity – allowing internal resources to mix with external solutions in an enterprise-controlled environment. Key to this approach is ensuring a clear and consistent communications channel between the labs and operating units. Without this communication, innovation often dies when transitioning between the lab environment and operating divisions.

The prevailing management tools are internal CRMs and shared spreadsheets; however these tools come with complications – like ease of adding startups to track and shareability of accurate information and data.  

To ensure external innovative technologies and solutions are effectively implemented, an emerging group of service providers focused on innovation integration is developing. These firms help enterprises work with startups or other external solutions – handling the technology integration / testing and the cultural differences between the two partners. Scaled Markets manages technology integrations; Opportu works with enterprises on cultural integration of startup partnerships.


Corporate innovation’s effectiveness depends greatly on how strategies are implemented and tied to overall corporate goals / initiatives. Innovation trends come and go, but the fundamentals of innovation do not change. Companies taking a long view on strategy, with flexibility on tactics, are the ones succeeding.

Why Millennials are Changing the Way Businesses Approach Employee Engagement

Guest post by David Mendlewicz, Co-Founder, Butterfly

Technological innovations are accelerating the rate of change in the labor force and will have a massive impact on the so-called “future of work.” Beyond conversations around globalization and the elimination of jobs via “machines,” there’s the immediate reality that Millennials have unseated Boomers as the largest generation in the U.S. workforce.

Millennials are the first generation of digital natives and they are are the first wave of workers to matriculate as part of the on-demand economy. For these reasons, human resources teams at corporations large and small face new challenge when it comes to attracting, developing and retaining top talent. Here are some reasons why.


Tech-savvy Millennials expect a different type of engagement

Back in the day, it was perfectly acceptable for a company to conduct once-a-year performance reviews. These were customarily used as a time for managers and team members to reflect on objectives and performance. But for Millennials who live in a 140-character world, the questionnaires were often lengthy and seen as a necessary evil.

To address these shifts, some organizations have adopted a more always-on approach to performance reviews. While annual reviews are still used to determine salary adjustments and promotions, more and more companies are relying on technology to capture feedback more quickly. For example, my company, Butterfly, provides a mobile experience that allows managers to keep tabs on employee happiness and engagement via 30-second “pulse” surveys, administered once a week. Teams at companies like Coca-Cola, Ogilvy, Ticketmaster and Citi – the last of which we paired via SwitchPitch – are using the platform to help young managers develop their soft skills.

Millennials are more apt to “job hop” than previous generations

Many Millennials have grown accustomed to switching employers every couple of years – a trait that would have been a red flag for prior generations. Per a LinkedIn study, over the past 20 years, the number of companies employees have worked for in the five years following graduation has nearly doubled. Another survey, from Careerbuilder, found that 45 percent of workers plan to change jobs within two years of their start date. So, with shorter tenures now the norm, how are HR teams to react?

Beyond accepting the reality and shifting talent acquisition strategies in accordance to these trends, organizations are also looking for new ways to keep top talent engaged for as long as possible. One way of doing this is by identifying what motivates workers to stick around. While these factors vary by industry and individual, some include: employee empowerment (feeling aligned with the company vision); how much they respect and/or trust their manager; and having a well-established career path (e.g. opportunities for continued learning, such as leadership training).

“Fearless” Millennials want leadership positions sooner

Another common trait among Millennials is the desire to move up the corporate ladder quicker than their predecessors. This isn’t as much about overconfidence as it is about Millennials’ fearlessness when it comes to striving for more responsibility at a younger age. They’re natural-born entrepreneurs, and they want to write their own scripts.

While many corporations are embracing this trend and boosting young “stars” to leadership positions, the environment has created gaps in soft skill development. Per the Harvard Business Review, most young managers (in their 20s or early 30s) wait more than a decade before they receive any formal executive leadership coaching. In other words, some talented young managers are falling short due to lack of training.


The big takeaway for HR and innovation teams: Now is a time to take stock of your current employee engagement and management training practices. Ask yourself: Are the current methods of collecting feedback lining up with the pace of change, specifically as it pertains to Millennial workers? Further, are young managers receiving the leadership training they need to be set up to succeed?

When it comes to the “future of work,” those organizations able to use technology to capture – and, importantly, act on – real-time data will be able to keep Millennial employees motivated and engaged, as well as effectively groom the next generation of leadership.


davidmendlewiczDavid Mendlewicz is Co-Founder of Butterfly, a mobile leadership training tool designed for the Millennial generation. Joining David on the founding team are Marcus Perezi-Tormos and Simon Rakosi. Teams at leading companies such as Coca-Cola, GE, Citi and Ticketmaster are leveraging Butterfly’s technology to groom managers’ soft skills and keep employees engaged and happy. Follow Butterfly on Twitter @bttrflapp.

Defense Companies Courting Startups: Fad or Lasting Trend?

From National Defense Magazine

During a closed-door meeting with top industry executives last month, Defense Secretary Ashton Carter once again sought to drive home the message that companies need to break out of their cocoon to help the Pentagon bring the next wave of innovation.

The conversation touched on familiar topics, according to participants, but Carter seemed especially animated by one executive’s comments about a recent industry “speed-dating” event where commercial startups were invited to hear about business opportunities with defense contractors.

Full article here

Why SwitchPitch is Crowdfunding

A few months back over coffee, Ollen Douglass, CFO of investment site The Motley Fool, indicated he was interested in investing in SwitchPitch. Why? Because as an executive at one of the most respected investment sites, he loved SwitchPitch’s business model, often talked about SwitchPitch, made introductions to other executives. But had no formal relationship with us – he didn’t know what to refer to us as? Friends? Interesting startup?

When referring to us, he wanted to say SwitchPitch is one of his investments, as that would’ve made a more compelling reason to refer us. And if he were able to invest, his introductions would create value for both of us.

After our coffee, I thought – what if other people share the same interest? Many people tell me they like SwitchPitch’s model, love that it exists, and appreciate how it helps startups grow. Crowdfunding is the new kid on the block, so I started exploring options and running the idea of a crowdfunding campaign by others I knew were interested in our success. Now they could capitalize on our growth.

Our motives were clear from the very beginning:

  1. Engage advocates to promote SwitchPitch to their colleagues
  2. Raise capital to scale the business
  3. Create a community of investors / advocates to provide feedback and support

When  I started exploring  the crowdfunding landscape, Regulation Crowdfunding (Reg CF) rules had just been published by the SEC, making it possible any investor (rather than just high net worth angels) to invest in startups. After exploring the existing platforms, SeedInvest emerged as the clear leader. They are conservative in their offerings (only a few at a time); They have a large investor base (100k+); They work hard to support the companies on their platform (running ads, monitoring email campaigns, hosting events and more). Although they only accept 1-2% of startups that apply, I knew we were a good fit.

After going through rigorous financial and legal reviews, we were finally able to launch our campaign. Throughout the entire process, it’s been critical that we understand the SEC rules that regulate the space: no pre-selling the deal prior to launch; investor information must be uniformly shared on our crowdfunding campaign page; restrictive language when promoting the deal. These rules are all intended to protect individual investors, which makes sense.

SwitchPitch’s crowdfunding campaign launched in mid-August and runs through Nov. 7. Ollen Douglass invested, as did innovation executives at Fortune 500 companies – the people who understand our business model the best!

According to SeedInvest, most activity is in the first and last 2 weeks. We’re entering the last two weeks soon with significant investor commitments, but we need more investors to close our round.

Over the course of the campaign, SwitchPitch has received significant traction, providing momentum to potential investors:

  • 18 Fortune 500 companies signed up as beta users
  • 1,000+ startups created profiles
  • 10 new projects published on our marketplace
  • Dozens of calls and meetings with big companies like BAE, Elbit, Harris, Syngenta and innovative startups
  • Significant industry press in Aerospace & Defense (Inside Defense, Aviation Week, GovMatters TV) –

We’re entering the final stretch of our campaign with significant investor commitments, but we need more investors to close our round. Join our list of investors – Dreamit Ventures, Allen Morgan, David Steinberg and more – by investing directly in SwitchPitch! To invest in our crowdfunding campaign, check out details on SeedInvest here.

At this tech event, big companies get a taste of life as a start-up

The roomful of entrepreneurs watched in anticipation as the first participant took the stage. They’d all been in that position before: teeing up the PowerPoint slide show, fumbling around with the presentation remote and clearing their throats before launching into a business pitch.

Only this time, the ones doing the pitching were executives from large companies such as Comcast, Samsung and Time Inc.

At SwitchPitch, a tech event that connects start-up owners and big companies across the country, the roles are reversed. Executives outline specific problems they’re trying to solve and look to entrepreneurs for ideas. Now in its third year, the event returned to Washington this week to coincide with a White House event promoting diversity in entrepreneurship.

Continue Reading here

SwitchPitch, in first defense event, seeks to connect
large contractors with startups

InsideDefense – September 27, 2016 | Marjorie Censer

SwitchPitch, a platform that convenes big companies with startups, held its first aerospace and defense-focused event Tuesday, featuring contractors including BAE Systems and Harris.

The event, held at startup incubator 1776 in Crystal City, VA, came as the Pentagon is pushing for greater use of commercial technology in defense.

Jerry McGinn of the Pentagon’s Office of Manufacturing and Industrial Base Policy told attendees the Defense Department is seeing the sources of innovation change.

“The defense industrial base is critical for the department. We view it as part of our force structure,” he said. “Nothing strengthens that defense industrial base more than competition and new blood.”

SwitchPitch was established in hopes of making it easier for big companies and startups to work together, Michael Goldstein, president of SwitchPitch, told Inside Defense in an interview. The platform is predicated on the idea that the process is improved when big companies first lay out their needs and then startups can respond.

Continue Reading Here

Enterprise / Startup Partnerships in
Highly-Regulated Industries

Enterprises struggle to keep up with innovation while new startups are exploding. SwitchPitch is addressing this issue by connecting big companies and startups to do business together – one industry at a time.

In evaluating industries that would benefit most from our startup engagement platform, we noticed particular challenges with heavily-regulated industries. These industries have specific credentials, qualifications and requirements that make enterprise / startup relationships challenging given the lack of information available about startups.


Compliance makes partnerships difficult

To address this challenge, SwitchPitch’s startup profiles give enterprises the information they need to qualify startups early on: industry credentials, business development history, funding information and ratings / reviews – become indispensable to large companies seeking startup partnerships.

Case Study: Aerospace & Defense

Gleaning valuable information from our startup profiles, we invited top Aerospace & Defense startups to an industry event we hosted, designed to connect large contractors with innovative startups.

The Department of Defense, under Secretary Ash Carter, has encouraged defense contractors to work with startups to speed up innovation cycles within the defense ecosystem. As government customers continue to demand more innovation from established companies, the industry is increasingly turning to non-traditional sources of technology to meet its needs.

To match these needs, SwitchPitch and our Aerospace & Defense partner, Glacier Point, hosted an event with industry-leading companies looking for startup partnerships. On Sept. 27, 2016 at 1776 Startup Campus in Crystal City, VA, BAE Systems, Harris Corporation, and Elbit Systems presented budgeted projects to an audience of startups.


Elbit Systems presenting at SwitchPitch Aerospace & Defense


More than 50 aerospace & defense startups from across the country attended the event to watch seven funded innovation projects pitched from BAE Systems, Harris Corporation and Elbit Systems. Over $500,000 of projects were presented – ready for startups to execute. After presentations, 98 SpeedMeetings were held between large contractors and startups to facilitate partnerships.

Based upon SwitchPitch’s historical success rate, we anticipate more than 40% of the projects will result in business relationships between enterprises and startups.


The Innovation Landscape


Managing corporate innovation is not an easy task. CEOs of large companies prioritize innovation in annual reports and speeches. It’s at the forefront of company-wide initiatives. Lead in it you must.

But historically, large companies have relied on R&D departments or university relationships to discover and introduce new technology. As technology / development costs significantly dropped, Fortune 500 resources or university infrastructures are no longer necessary to develop innovative solutions.

The landscape for finding fresh, nimble sources of innovation is starting to catch up to the demand. Here are examples of both new and old innovation sources that are primed to fulfill corporate needs:

Government / NGO’s

Government agencies / NGOs fund innovation needs via SBIR and other funding mechanisms. Where to find sources of SBIR awardee data? In the US, many agencies make their award recipients public. Not so in Canada, where technology research grants are not made public by government agencies. Every country has nuanced rules regarding government-funded technology programs, making discovery a full-time job for a team of researchers. Finding a comprehensive source of global government research grant data is necessary to uncovering early-stage technology ready for commercialization.


Startups are an exploding source of new innovation as technology costs drop and disruption becomes a desirable achievement. Interestingly, startup innovation often transcends industries – ex. a healthcare startup may provide technology for the aerospace & defense industry. These cross-industry solutions are extremely desirable and often difficult to identify. Comprehensive startup databases with detailed tagging, filtering and outreach capabilities are essential to uncover the most intriguing early-stage innovation.

Expert Communities

A good source for innovative ideas are communities of experts / professors / scientists. Many experts are part of online communities where they submit ideas to solve corporate needs. One challenge I hear from corporate innovation teams is that the solutions are theoretical – not existing – with many unknowns in the development cycles.

Silicon Valley Corporate Outposts

Increasing in popularity, Silicon Valley outposts bring established companies closer to the mecca of innovation. Having innovation scouts attend events, meet with venture capitalists, and generally tap into the SV startup ecosystem adds new sources of startups to the corporate innovation rolodex. Even the US government is part of the action, with the DOD opening an SV outpost to discover new aerospace & defense innovation.

In conversation, I’ve heard that connecting the dots between startup relationships and operating divisions’ needs is the tricky part.

Coworking spaces / Innovation campuses

Startups love to be around other startups – connecting, sympathizing, supporting each other. Most cities have central startup hubs where startups rent desks and join the startup community. Coworking space and innovation campuses are typically open to corporate partnerships because when their startups succeed, their campus succeeds.

Many campuses now have industry specialties, enabling large companies to experience relevant startup communities. One note – as mentioned earlier, many relevant startups come from a variety of industries. Multiple campus relationships are therefore necessary in order to discover all relevant innovation.

Developer communities / Hackathons

Hackathons work best when corporates are looking to engage with developers around specific initiatives – opening an API, testing new mobile functionality, etc. These events have defined time limits in which submissions must be completed. Great for getting new ideas – not great for getting comprehensive solutions. One definite benefit – letting developer communities know your company is developer-friendly and open for business for developers.


University-developed technologies are a great source of corporate innovation. Universities spend heavily on research & development, often backed by state governments. Much of the technology is never commercialized, with intellectual property frequently protected by patents filed by inventors. University technologies may be uncovered via corporate partnerships, tech transfer conferences, online marketplaces and more.


With so many disparate sources, building innovation community relationships is an efficient way to aggregate many technologies / startups through a single channel. Centralizing innovation engagement – a front door for innovation – is essential to keep innovation from falling through the cracks.

Discovery is not the only issue. Disparate sources brings disparate conversations internally – more on this in my next post.

Posted by Michael Goldstein