Bringing the innovative startup culture to a larger, established company has been a popular tactic for some years. Attempts have, however, had varying degrees of success. Coca-Cola, for example, recently dropped its startup incubator program, suggesting that it is much harder than it looks to build relationships so that both parties get what they hoped for.
One company that has been evolving a startup program for more than three years is R/GA, the digital agency group. It has run several programs and invested in almost 50 startups across verticals including marketing tech and the Internet of Things (IoT). The company recently caught headlines when Snap Inc. said it was backing a venture program, however, this arrangement pertains to an existing marketing tech program, launched in New York last year.
Now, IPG-owned R/GA is taking its ever-evolving model to Europe, and kicking off with an IoT Venture Studio in London, in partnership with U.K. public body, InnovateUK. Ten startups have been selected for the program, which launches on February 6.
R/GA IoT UK Venture Studio managing director, Matt Webb, who recently joined to lead the U.K. operation, says that even just a year ago the list of successful applicants would have looked very different. “If you were doing this 12 months ago, they would all have been very techy companies and we’d be saying, ‘IoT, it’s coming and we’ve got the tech companies that are going to make it possible’ but it would have been super-abstract,” he says. But now, Webb says, IoT is here and the startups on the program are all actually using IoT to accelerate and do business in a lighter and more agile way, across a range of sectors.
Webb says, “For example, we have one company that is doing retail analytics on people who come into stores, using AI and cameras, which are off-the-shelf hardware. Another is working in food waste in kitchens. Is it an IoT company? Well, you might not say that. They’re in the hospitality business, but they are using IoT to bring software, the network, and web services to do something that’s in the real world.”