Build, Buy, or Co-Create: The Balancing Act of Corporate Startup Innovation



How do large corporations balance the work of uncovering insights and new venture concepts internally, while keeping track of small, nimble startups that are disrupting their industry?

In this panel, Lauren Robinson will sit with forward thinkers such as the Insight Manager at Lulemon (Courtney Lawrence), Head of Strategic Innovation at Sears (Alex Glinka), and Venture Partner from Real Ventures (Omar Dhalla) to learn more about the way corporations interact with start-ups and innovation.

Session Takeaways:

Below are some questions Lauren had asked members on the panel. Each speaker provided their take on the relationship between corporations, startups, and innovation:

Q: What does innovation look like for corporations?

Innovation often acts as a buzzword and gives companies a chance to puff their chest out. But for businesses to stay alive, they have to innovate. Corporations have either created their own innovation groups or interfaced with them in some way.

Alex Glinka: Sears has created their own innovation and is tasked with the duty of forming ideas and new technology that will further the business. Sometimes groups like these work externally of the company then inject these ideas and concepts back into the company itself. Sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but that depends on the company.

As head of the innovation team at Sears, we don’t work as an additional function or group. We work as an autonomous team within the innovation space, but we always work in conjunction with the company.

2) With plenty of business opportunities that are coming up, how do you integrate innovation and insights, while keeping a read on the disruptions within your industry?

Courtney Lawrence: We’re like an organ in the organism, which in this case is the business. We also have the veins and arteries that pollinate into other teams. We can’t create innovations unless we work with the people on the brand team who tell our story. And we wouldn’t be able to do it without the human resources department, who train our front people on how they’re going to educate and engage with customers in the store.

3) Should these groups be centralized or decentralized?

Omar Dhalla: With the perspective coming from an actual startup, it’s imperative to embed innovation and practices into these companies. It’s easier for us because we are a early stage company so we’re quick to experiment and try something new. Every week, we meet with machine researchers and listen to the problems they’re facing in the industry. Through that, we’re able to solve problems that other companies are facing through AI.

Each speaker had their unique take on the relationship between corporations, startups, and innovation. We hope these perspectives will inspire your company (whether it’s a corporation or startup) to create partnerships that will drive new ideas.


About Anne Servidad

After working for a business incubator, she discovered her love for two things-- marketing and tech startups. While on her entrepreneurial journey to learn more about the two, she often gets sidetracked and binge watches shows on Netflix.

» View all posts by Anne Servidad

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *