Fending Off the Competition
Here in the South, we like to think the prowess of large companies that call the area home—Fortune 500 success stories, including UPS, AT&T and Home Depot—is a sign that this region is a great place to be. But life here isn't all about scale and pedigree; in the South companies must fight every day to reach prominence because the bank only accepts one currency: innovation.
As consumers demand more innovative products and services, corporations often struggle to keep up. A recent survey shows the conflict that many companies face: 90% believe that they are too slow to market and are often over budget, while 65% of senior executives say they face an increased pressure to innovate. Corporations are bound to answering shareholders and navigating complex organizational structures, while startups have the luxury of being quick and nimble in their responses.
A New Movement Has Been Born
To combat this, we’re seeing growing evidence of big corporations investing in internal startups with the goal of driving sustainable growth. Due to their scale, they have a much greater potential to see mass adoption, which is different from the challenge that most startups face.
For example, AT&T Foundry based in Atlanta—one of six locations around the world—is a collaborative innovation center with $100 million in partner investments focused on catering to customer needs in novel ways. One of its latest projects allows users to execute rules on their house like turning off the lights or locking the doors, all from a wireless smartphone.According to Ruth Yomtoubian, Business Innovation Lead at AT&T Foundry, “our innovation center lets us take on risks that the rest of the organization may be unwilling to take on.” Corporations are also taking notice of the need for innovation beyond their own internal forces. They’re looking first to this region because our startup ecosystem is scrappy and hungry. The ability to operate inside the tighter restraints of a small business are often what drives industry disruption—which the Southeast has seen from startups like Kabbage in financial loans, Cardlytics in analytics, and Bluefin in cybersecurity. It’s not funding alone that determines whether startups in the region prosper. BMW recently made a strategic decision to expand services to its customers by taking the majority share of Atlanta-based startup ParkMobile, the leading mobile parking solution in the U.S., with plans to integrate this technology into all of their cars and all of their brands moving forward. It’s a clear indication that southern startups are rapidly expanding traditional sectors by using technology and compelling customer experiences to grow their value proposition, and corporations want in.
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