Lunch & Learn with Toby Stone: how start-ups and big companies can work together

The beauty of disruptive innovation is to be as disruptive as possible.

Last month, Toby Stone came to Tesco HQ to deliver our very first Tesco Labs Lunch & Learn session on how big corporations and start-ups can work together.

Below are six nuggets of wisdom from Toby’s talk. The link to the full video is at the end of the article.

1. Start-ups move fast
As they’re so much smaller than big corporations (maybe just 2 or 3 people), making decisions is quicker and easier: they aren’t fettered by reams of red-tape, and don’t have to get sign-off from 10 people in 8 different departments if they want to change their app’s font colour. They also have an added incentive to keep them on their toes: the real threat of running out of cash.

2. “What have you done for me lately?”
It’s a two-way street when it comes to working with start-ups.
Big companies have lots of customers, which can help start-ups get traction, and have extensive experience and knowledge in areas that start-ups might not be familiar with. They also have $$$!
On the flip side, start-ups can bring disruptive innovation, new ideas and agility to the party. They’re adaptable, and their friendly, non-corporate face can be a good way of engaging people.

3. ‘Watching big corporations try to work directly with start-ups is like watching your dad dancing at a disco.’
Harsh but true… or just plain harsh? Toby says big corporations shouldn’t try to BE start-ups, but rather should think of getting someone in to act as a middle-man, or ‘interpreter.’ Toby says: “the start-up world, like the corporate world, has its own vocabulary, its own media outlets.” This is where corporate accelerators and incubators would be an ideal solution.

4. ‘Pfft. I liked their music back when they only had 300 friends on MySpace!’
The ‘hipster factor’ is a big deal these days; but can a cool start-up retain its street cred if it works with Tesco? Toby says the key to this is staying a healthy distance apart.
If we were to take over a start-up and rob them of that mentality, this would defeat the point of working with them: they are no longer friendly-looking, but look like a cynical corporate Marketing ploy. But if we work with them but keep our distance, and let them keep their identity, then we both benefit: we can ‘borrow’ their street cred, and they keep their identity.

4. The dreaded ‘Process’ is a start-up’s kryptonite
Even if the start-up has the support of a Venture Capital Fund or a big corporate partner and is gaining a decent customer base, if they have to wait too long for the big company to make a decision, they will lose money – and run the real risk of going bust.

6. Time Differences
Corporation and start-ups have different conceptions of time: ‘quickly’ could mean weeks to months to a start-up, whereas to a big corporation, this could mean months to years. Can a big corporation move fast enough to do anything meaningful with the start-up before they get bored…or go bust?

Watch Toby deliver his talk, and field your questions with panache here:

If you'd like to know more information you can email us at labs@uk.tesco.com, or let us know your thoughts with a tweet @TescoLabs