Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, innovating, Startups.

We are going through huge changes in technology and in the world in general. The future has never been this unpredictable no matter what industry you are talking about. Now is the last chance for big corporations to ditch their stiff structures and slow ways of working. To become agile and innovative like startups. That’s the recipe for success in the future.

Big organizations have a lot of benefits over startups: brand value, funds, knowledge of the industry and so on. But they are definitely not known for agility, disruptive innovation power and all the other things startups are amazing at. Corporations have already understood that working with startups is great PR and a way to get great innovations – way ahead of their competitors. But most are missing the biggest learning experience they could ever get. Startup accelerators shouldn’t just accelerate the startups, but also the corporation in the program.

We have now done 20 accelerators with big corporations. One of the biggest learnings has been that it is not just the startups evolving during the accelerators. The big corporations have also changed. The more involved the corporations have been, the bigger learnings and changes they have seen. In this post, I will talk about some of the key learnings on how you can transform your organization with startups.

Learning from startups organizational learning

 

1. If you want to achieve a lot, don’t settle for too little

Working with startups can be scary for a big corporation. Startups often seem like a completely different species. The way they act, their speed, even the way they speak are just so different. It is a completely new kind of world to operate in. A scary world. And at the same time the corporations are worried about the returns: will it really be worth the effort.

That is why many choose to go for a smaller event like hackathons. And sometimes that can be a great first step. But the expectations should also be appropriately small. That is because no matter how great the startups and teams in the hackathons are, they still only have a couple of days to do miracles. Or some corporations try to get the benefits by working with just one or two startups. But the thing is, you need to be lucky to get the right ones for you.

Those kinds of things can be a great way to get a peek into the startup way of working. But for organizational learning and real change, they are usually not enough. That’s why there are accelerators.

Accelerators are still relatively short in corporate terms (the program itself about 3 months of so), but for startups that is a long long time. They can do real miracles in weeks if not even days. And a couple of months means many many miracles. During the length of the accelerator program, the startups will also get to know you and your challenges so much better. That means they will create ready solutions that are pretty much tailor made for you. Of course, this means that you have to give them the possibility to learn about you; you really need to work with them. But that is also how you will transform your own organization.

2. To learn, you need to do

Your organization is your people, your employees. No matter how great your products or business in general are, they are nothing without the effort of your employees. They often say it’s not the great idea, but the execution that matters. And execution is on your employees’ shoulders. And that is why to transform your organization you need to transform them first. That’s the beginning of changing your whole organization, from inside out.

For your employees to learn and change, you need to get them doing. A lot of organizations send people to seminars and hire consultants. Those have their purposes, but the best way to learn is never to just sit and listen passively. You need to be doing. And when you learn by doing, you have already started making those changes. That’s why you need to get your people as involved in the accelerator as possible. To work together with the startups.

And when I say working together and I really mean working together. Many organizations just have the accelerator’s startups in a corner of the office and encourage their employees to go look at them. But again, like taking a look at a lion won’t make you into one, just looking at startups won’t do much. In practice, that means you should have your employees act as the startups’ mentors & business champions. That’s the way to get them learning. For best results, choose an accelerator that helps with that. Like I said earlier, the worlds of startups and corporations are different, and often a bit of help for joining those two is very much welcome.

3. Help the startups, help yourself

When your employees work with the startups they see first hand how startups work. How completely redoing something takes days instead of months. How they turn their business completely around, pivot when they realize what they are doing isn’t working. And so on, and so forth. When your employees help the startups, they will start to see a different way of doing. They will also see what is wrong with their own organizations, and even more important: how things should be. And as they have startups relying on them to help, they make those changes happen. Instead of thinking about and following all the usual procedures, they just do it. Take the shortcut and break the infamous silos.

In other words: while helping the startups the employees are in fact helping their own organization. They are learning and fixing it inside out. And that is much more efficient than getting an outsider to force their models on you.

For those little changes to become a real transformation, you need enough people to do it. One fish can’t change the waters, but a flock will. You need to have enough of your employees working with the startups. And you have to have your whole organization involved.

4. Make learning (and the accelerator) your organization’s top priority

When the changes in your organization happen you should let everyone know about them. You should use your own success cases as inspiration for the rest of the organization. And in general, you should make sure your people are aware of what is going on. That you have startups on board and you are transforming your whole organization. Not only is it good internal PR, but it also makes it easier to make those changes happen. What you make a priority in your organization is much more likely to happen.

5. The right amount of startups

You need to have enough of your own people involved, but you also need to have just the right amount of startups. Too few, and it is difficult to involve enough of your employees for real change. Too many and you will have too many changes needed to be able to actually execute them.

In our experience about 10-15 startups hits just the spot. Just enough to have a real impact, but not too many to overwhelm you. It is also a good amount from the innovation perspective.

6. Learn to fail

The right way to fail might even be the most important thing you can learn from startups.

First of all, the word failing is wrong. Or at least how we understand it. To most failing means the end, losing. But it really is a beginning: you did something and you learned. And the next time you do something you will be much better at it. That’s why startups have FailDay, and have this whole ”culture of failing”. Some even celebrate each failure AND the learnings from them. And that is what big corporations need. Many even say it is impossible to innovate if you don’t know how to fail. And to be the top player in the future, your organization can’t just rely on innovations coming from outside (or even worse: doing the same thing you have been doing since the beginning of time). You yourself need to have the capabilities of acting fast.

So, learn to fail. If you don’t master the art of failing safely, that’s when you will really fail. And even more importantly: you need to learn to fail fast. In a way, startups are constantly on the lookout for failures, things that don’t work. They learn from them, and pivot, change directions and try again. And they do it super fast, over and over again. When you do it fast enough, it really isn’t failing. Just learning and adjusting accordingly. And as it is done quickly, just the minimal amount of money or effort has been wasted. The faster you fail the faster you learn and start doing the right things.

 

In short:

  1. If you want big changes, you can’t settle for little. The effort you put in and your results are directly related to each other.
  2. Your employees are the key to learning and corporate changes. The change starts from them.
  3. Get involved. Don’t just look, but work together with the startups. By helping them you are actually helping yourself.
  4. Make the accelerator, organizational learning and changes a priority. That helps make the changes happen and make them stick.
  5. Work with the right amount of startups. Enough to have an effect, but not too many to paralyze yourself.
  6. Learn to fail fast.

And there you have it: 6 ways to transform your organization with startups.  Remember: when the stiffest of them all, banks, have transformed, so can you.

 

Start renewing your business today

Let’s talk how Nestholma can help to renew your entire company and find new businesses with startups and beyond.

I want to hear more

 

You might also be interested in: Why are big corporations so bad at innovating?

 

Posted by & filed under Banking, Corporations, Fintech, Startups.

I have always believed the world will be a better place when we work together, collaborate, instead of pushing others down to gain what we want. Working at Nestholma I have come to realize collaboration isn’t good for just individuals, but also businesses. In some industries, it has even become the only way to survive in the heated competition. That’s the case for example in fintech where customers are becoming more and more spoiled with choice and the whole industry is changing at an incredible speed.

At Nestholma, we talk so much about collaborating that it should be in our slogan. (Oh, wait…) But it just can’t be helped. When you spend every day with startups, big corporations and banks, you are bound to see not only the good parts but also the parts that are lacking. And how well those complement each other. You can’t really help but become part of the cult called collaboration.

When you take a look at our portfolio you will see startups doing exactly that, providing something that helps banks become better banks for their customers. And they are damn good at it (excuse my language…)! But of course they are, they went through a bank accelerator. They found a fault in the banking world and developed their solution further together with a bank. So, it is not just what the customers want but also exactly what the bank needs. The startups have been able to create a solution that is well validated, and banks get an amazing innovation, just for their needs and way ahead of the rest of the industry.

Startups do in days what corporations can do in month, if not even in years

When you are used to the corporation timetables, many questions if it really is possible to do magic in such a short time as the accelerator program is (our programs itself lasts usually 3 months). Well, it is: startups are the best magicians in that respect:

They don’t call accelerators supercharged for no reason. Startups go through incredible transformations and banks get to hand pick from a pool of innovation made with their own requirements. And they get them way ahead of their competitors. At the same time, the banks can’t help but also learn the agile working style startups have. But the real winners are of course the customers – they are the ones whose lives are being made better and better.

So, what kind of startups are these ’bank-validated startups’ then? Glad you asked because I have 4 of them to introduce.

 

Jenny customer service AI artificial intelligence

What is the first thing that comes to mind when you think about customer service online? If you are a customer, it is probably the long wait. And if you are a bank: the massive amount of inquiries you get every single day. And that is exactly the problem. Banks get so many customer inquiries every day that handling them in a timely manner is pretty much impossible. Out of the mass of inquiries 80% are recurring. That means customer service people spend most of their day answering the same questions over and over again. That is all time away from solving urgent and more problematic cases. Or so it was.

Jenny has brought artificial intelligence (A.I.) into customer service. Jenny teaches their A.I. to think using existing knowledge bases: emails, chat logs and so on. The machine then figures out the common inquiries and the answers for them. It also learns how to answer without sounding like your common bot. In fact, the customer won’t have a clue she or he is not talking with a human, but a machine. The only thing they wonder is how on earth they got their response so fast. And that’s what you call amazing customer service! Jenny also helps its human work mates by providing some of the common answers to the customer’s problem and make solving the that much more efficient. Hello, good customer service!

  • Works on the languages the company works
  • Learns constantly and can thus solve more and more customer inquiries
  • Works on the same tech the customer already has – no money or resources wasted on changing systems
  • Techstars Tel Aviv superstars

 

Collectly loan collecting banking

We all know not everybody pays their debts in time. And that poses a tricky situation: how do you get your money without destroying the relationship with the debtor?

For banks and businesses, this can easily mean you get the money but lose all future business with the debtor. IF you even get anything. Now banks and other businesses send generic and un-engaging letters and make disturbing calls. No wonder the borrowers just ignore them or do the best they can to avoid them. The business is not getting their money and the customer relationship is pretty much lost, maybe forever. Just in the Nordic region alone, that means 16B of lost money. That is if you don’t use Collectly.

Collectly maximizes debt recovery while retaining the customer. To do that they use AI and machine learning. They profile the customer and then contact him or her via modern communication channels with messages that are both personalized and engaging. That is much more transparent, friendly and efficient way of collecting debts. In fact, Collectly has a success rate of 56 percent in collecting debts with their early customers! They recognize the debtors who might have problems in the future and deal with the ones who already do.

  • Collection rate up by 60%
  • 10 x more cost efficient
  • 6 x increased customer retention
  • Just finished Y-combinator, and has been featured in hot publications like Techcrunch.

All in all, you will get what belongs to you AND you get to keep the customer and can make more business with them. You are happy, the customer is happy, a clear win-win situation.

 

Nordigen banks banking loan application

Banks reject too many good loan applicants due to insufficient credit history. At the same time recognizing the bad loans is not always so easy. Nordigen makes the credit decisions easier, more accurate and much much faster than before (in 10 seconds to be exact).

Be it hobbies, shopping, groceries or even gambling, almost nothing in life is free. But the good part is all that leaves traces, transaction history. Using the data from the customer’s account and payment card Nordigen’s machine can identify the customers with riskier and safer behavior patterns – whom the bank should or shouldn’t lend money, even when the credit history is insufficient. Banks can increase their lending while diminishing the risk. At the same time, Nordigen helps segment the bank’s customers, even by their hobbies, whatever would help the bank in its operations.

  • Flexible solution, works with all strict local banking regulations
  • Easy to set onto existing infrastructure

 

Fjuul health app tracking

Sports tracking? Isn’t that for athletes and health nuts? Not anymore – Fjuul has brought digital health to everyday people and everyday life; be it a health nut or just your average Joe. Like with foods, exercise about the quality, not quantity. And Fjuul is just the tool to help you. Their app tracks your day and tells you which physical activities have the most impact on your health and fitness. You can then compare and see what kind of activities in your day-to-day life have the biggest impact on your health. And when ’good health’ isn’t enough of a motivator, Fjuul also helps with that. Your movement becomes a currency that you can trade for discounts and goods (= the number 1 reason why I take the longer route home nowadays ;).

But why I am talking about a health app on this post? Because it is nothing but relevant. Insurances aren’t really considered sexy, especially by millennials. There is a burning fight for customers, but making yourself the choice number 1 isn’t so easy. And even keeping the existing customers is hard: insurance companies don’t really have that many chances to interact and engage with their customers – build a real relationship, loyalty. At the same time problems like cardiovascular diseases are on the rise and considering our current lifestyles, fast food, and office work, it is only going to get worse. And that’s what keeps the guys responsible for the health claims up at night!

Those are just some of the things Fjuul can solve. Customer acquisition through their offers, relationship building, activity based insurance products, corporate wellbeing programs, just to name few. And yes, there is no doubt Fjuul is attractive in the eyes of the customers – it is a top featured fitness app in over 100 countries!

Forget competing – the future is in collaboration

Banks and fintech startups have gone a long way from fierce competitors to collaborators. And the same is happening to banks with other banks. Many changes are coming to the banking industry, but one thing is sure: the biggest beneficiary are the customers. Be it the number of options, PSD2 – the customers have the power and the banks and startups need to listen. Or better yet: create something better than the customers could ever imagine.

Personally, I am excited to see how the banking industry is going to evolve through collaboration, and even more excited to enjoy the growing ease of my everyday life as a customer. How about you? What are your thoughts on the new era of banking?

 

Related post: What I learned from talking with 40+ banks from all over the world

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Fintech, Startups.

We have done 19 accelerators mainly for global companies. 1-3 locations at the time. Being inside the corporations’ offices with startups. It’s a must. That’s the best way to deliver co-developed innovations for banks and bank customers. Corporations also buy learning from us. Learning to become like startups. They also want to learn how to cooperate with startups. And it only happens when they work with startups… (well, that’s self-evident =)).

Corporations really value the hands-on way how we run accelerators, but even with us, they face a real problem: how can they attract the best startups?

Solution to Banks: collaboration

Banks need to support each other to attract the best fintech startups. Globally. Best parts of a global and local accelerator. Each bank will have their own local accelerator and after the accelerator, each bank will participate in workshops/boot camps with the startups they see useful for them. And the startups are more bank compliant. That means, they’re easier to collaborate with.

Nestholma Global Fintech Accelerator attracts a large number of startups

Startups will join because they will have a fast track to all participating banks. During the accelerator, each startup cooperates with the bank they are located in. And when the program is done they will have a fast track to all participating banks.

So, we give startups our accelerator support and access to many banks. And that’s a promise they want to hear. And then we get more applications from the best fintech startups. A clear win-win. Yes to global. Yes to local.

Let’s talk!

I would like to have a discussion with all parties about this. Why is this the winning model? Why not? What should we have more/less? Let’s discuss!

Read more about the Global Fintech Accelerator here:

www.nestholma.com/fintech

 

Posted by & filed under Corporations, innovating.

Big corporations are clusters of amazingly smart people. They have resources, vast experience and deep knowledge of the industry. Be it banking, technology or pretty much any industry, the corporations are the rulers of the industry. At least till now.

Now startups with their amazing innovation power are taking over. Consumers are demanding better and better solutions, and big corporations can either learn how to really innovate again, collaborate with the startups or be left in the dust. To understand how you must first understand why. In this post, I am going to explain why exactly corporations are so bad at innovating.

Working together, but not really together

Big organizations do have plenty of smart people working together, but the problem is that they are not really working together. With big organizational size comes the need for structure, units, departments and all kinds of sections. There are departments for marketing, sales, legal and so on. The problem with it is that the employees don’t venture much outside their departments. They work with the same people all the time, and often with similar people. Marketing people with marketing people, sales with sales and so on.

To innovate, you need to have people with different knowledge bases and experiences working together, cross organizational boundaries. Even if people from different departments happen to work together, it is often just for a short time and for a specific mission. Innovations usually require time to just freely bounce around ideas. But with a focus on efficiency and the mission and hand, that is often just not possible.

To innovate different kinds of people have to work together. But in corporations that rarely really happens.  Tweet about it!

Quartile focus & the quest for efficiency

Corporations focus on making the next quartile better than the last. Innovations, on the other hand, require time. And that is exactly what such short-time focus does not provide. At the same time corporations look for efficiency. The same (or even more!) tasks are expected to be done with fewer and fewer employees. That leaves the employees no extra time for free thinking; creating new & innovative ideas. And even if they could squeeze in a bit of innovative thinking, why would they? Their performance score is based on how well they handle the tasks in their job descriptions, and that’s it! Such systems punish for trying to be innovative; ‘wasting time’. Even if the employees are told to innovate, fresh ideas rarely come on command.

Innovations require time. When you just focus on making the next quartile better, there isn’t enough of it. Tweet about it!

short-term focus quartile

Knowing their field too well

Another problem big corporations have is that they are the masters of their field. It obviously has a lot of benefits, but at the same time, they know their field too well. When you are so deeply inside, it is difficult to see possibilities for change. And often times the innovations that do come from within are fairly small. That is why big innovations come from the outside, from people who have a much less clouded view.

Resistance to change

Some corporations get cocky. They don’t realize that what has worked for the past 20 years, might not work at all now. They fail to recognize that with time also their customers, market etc. change and they need to change with them, preferably even lead the change.

Sometimes the organizations understand in principle that to stay on top of the game, they need to innovate and essentially: change. But to truly do that, you need to have the whole organization in it. But instead many big changes are faced with attitudes like: ”We have never done it this way” or ”We already tried this 30 years ago”. When you have lived too long in the same bubble it can be hard to recognize how much e.g. technology has changed over time. What was impossible before is often very much possible now.

You need to realize that what has worked for 20 years, might not work at all now. Stay current. Tweet about it!

Failing to fail enough

Being innovative requires tolerating failure. Like Ilkka Paananen from Supercell has said: most of their games fail, but they keep doing that to find the game that’s going to be on top. For big corporations, failure can seem daunting. Unlike the failures of smaller companies that often go unnoticed, everything big corporations do is scrutinized. They have a reputation to keep and they need to be careful of bad press and its influence on their brand, stocks and so on. But failures are a crucial part of being innovative.

Being innovative requires failures and the courage to fail. Tweet about it!

Failure failing success

Innovations don’t always seem so attractive

There are also negative sides to innovations, which can make them seem unattractive to corporations and especially their employees. New innovations often mean things can be done more efficiently and with lesser costs. And that often means the corporations have an excess of employees. They need to downsize, let go of people, and that is what no one wants to do. It is horrible for the employees; both for the ones leaving and staying, and very bad for the company’s public image.

Another obstacle is all the legacy systems big organizations usually have. Over the years corporations have invested a great sum of money into IT, machines and real-estate among many other things, and letting go of them often feels like just too big of a waste.

When you look at all these issues, getting corporations to innovate may seem like an impossible task. But it doesn’t have to be. There is definitely hope, but organizations need to take action now. What can they do then? One solution is (surprise surprise) to learn from the innovation masters: startups. In a future post, we will talk more about the different ways big corporations can innovate.

 

Start renewing your business today

Let’s talk how Nestholma can help to renew your entire company and find new businesses with startups and beyond.

I want to hear more

 

Related post: 7 differences between startups and corporations

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Startups.

I believe there are three phases of startup and corporation collaboration (all of which are needed by the way!):

One-night stands, dating, and finally marriage.

One night stands are the first contacts between startups and corporations. Mingling at startup events, arranging innovation competitions, hackathons and the like. These are needed for people to get first experiences with startups and learn how different, yet lovely they are.

Dating phase is an accelerator program. There corporations get to experience the startup way of doing things. Iterating fast, focusing on the user experience, and providing customer care that is beyond just words. They also get feel what it is to truly share information and work without silos – things that are essential for creating real innovations.

Research shows that such programs work when they are outsourced to a party that understands corporations, and even more importantly: follows “lean startup” or similar methods. Coaching in the program also has to be focused on designing the businesses so that it create value to customers, not pitching or scaling them too early (unfortunately that is what most, but not all, accelerators do). Dating may or may not include investments into startups, but at least it should include some kind of business deals with the most suitable ones.

To make all that happen, it is crucial to have commitment from the top management and resources allocated for collaboration. It is also important to be flexible to learn and adjust processes so that you can actually get the innovations from the startups.

Marriage means getting even more serious and committed to working with startups. In the startup world, marriage has to be polygamy as marriage with just one startup seldom works. There is a high risk of killing the customer orientation/speed of startups with corporate processes and rules. That is why you need to systematically work with enough startups to achieve the critical mass and also make sure the corporation learns to benefit from startups.

And that’s it, the lovely world of startups’ and corporations’ love life.

 

Posted by & filed under Accelerator, Corporations, Fintech.

Altogether 13 startups, 3 months. And in addition, we had one startup from Industrial Bank of Korea accelerator. We have learned a lot. Nestholma has now done 21 accelerators for large corporations and we are reaching the level that we know how to start the change in corporations. I would also say that Nordea has been an amazing partner. They accept the facts and start changing when needed. The guys working for Nordea have the right attitude for cooperation. Really professional gang, but also cool to work with.

But Nestholma has a bigger mission. We are saving corporations. They need to be saved. From themselves. And startups are great tools for that. Corporations learn how to be agiler, they learn how to make decisions fast and how to design products and services with customers; and fast. But the best thing on accelerators is that startups deliver the innovations, at the speed of light…or night. I usually say that it takes a year to iterate by a corporation and a night by a startup. It is almost true =). But often corporations are also lean. Well, at least some parts of them and yet still many projects just stop. For no reason, they just are undone.

The best thing about implementing our mission is that the startups gain so much. They get the support from our partner corporation and Nestholma team, they need and they can start scaling their businesses. And for investors, we provide “bank tested” startups. Of course, some of them are better than others, but all of them are much better than they were 3 months before.

So amazing 3 months done. Not to mention Slush week; I was on stage 4 times talking to corporations as well discussing the change at Bank of Finland event. We also did investments at Slush and Ultrahack hackathon. And last week I was named on the list of TIVI top 100 most influential professionals in Finland. I guess that is also a prove that corporate startup accelerators are here to stay.

I finally got some rest during the weekend and now I feel gratitude for the amazing entrepreneurs at Nordea accelerator startups, for Nordea guys and mentors and my colleagues at Nestholma. All this happened only because of you. My sincere thank you to all.

See the startups pitching in the Demo Day

Antti Kosunen @anttikosunen