Over to KRPT founder Inder Phull to find out more:
Everyone now has an app, a dream to build one or knows someone who is already on that journey. This revolution is happening in all generations and industries, however the ones that really caught the imagination of society were started by young entrepreneurs like Mark Zuckerberg and Jamal Edwards.
This new generation of startups are completely reshaping many industries and tons of companies are now at the mercy of these visionaries. Some key reasons for this are that traditional organisations were not really set up to collaborate with startups, didn’t have the ability to move fast enough or just didn’t have the vision.
Publicis Groupe, one of the largest media agencies in the world recently announced they would be investing in 90 startups; providing tons of cash, mentorship and access to their roster of clients. This seemed like a very futuristic way to celebrate an agency’s 90th birthday and it got us thinking, what is the future of brands in the startup scene? Is this future already underway?
Collider is an accelerator dedicated to marketing and advertising startups that help brands and agencies identify, understand, engage with and sell to their consumers. So far they have raised close to £5m for their startups and this includes helping build 30+ companies and working with over 40 brands. Projects like Collider are born out of the need for brands and agencies to stay in sync with the latest ideas and not lose key opportunities for growth. The unique difference between the Collider and all other accelerators is its focus on finding the sweet spot between brands and startups and looking at ideas that will have direct impact on the advertising/marketing process.
The fact that they’ve helped build dozens of companies through brand collaborations and fundraising shows they are doing something right. It also highlights that there is a desire and active market for brands and agencies to understand and connect with startups in a more intimate manner.
Similar to Collider, The Bakery is an incubator programme that aims to connect brands and startups. Their model is slightly different however as they build a network of startups that are then picked to solve specific briefs that come through. Again, by working with clients like Unilever all the way to BMW, it shows that brands and agencies are already heavily involved in understanding and connecting with startups, especially since many of these are shaping the industry and changing budgets. However all of these have shown very specific areas of focus, technology!
Unlike the last two initiatives, Publicis 90 has been started by one of the biggest ad agencies in the world; highlighting how important startups are to their future strategy. Most agencies have tried at times to position themselves as “startup experts”; all of a sudden being able to provide lean software development and user experience ninjas with years of experience. But not many have ever proposed such a public opportunity as Publicis 90. WPP and tons of other leading media companies are always investing and partnering with new ventures behind closed doors, however by making it an open process like Publicis, it shows a different approach to being involved in startup culture. PR or genuine long-term strategy is something that time will tell.
Clearly, this future of brands in the startup scene is already happening in quite a few different ways. Telefonica launched the Wayra incubator many years ago which provided funding and mentorship to startups and this model seems to the most relevant for brands and agencies to replicate. Providing access to the experts, resources and the clients makes brand/ad agency incubators a very promising proposition for many startups.
On the weekends, startup culture could be defined by the hackathons that take place in universities and now indeed many offices. If you’re not aware, these are usually weekend competitions where programmers, designers and strategists collaborate to develop and launch new ideas usually fuelled by free pizza and beer. This mashup of expertise is a perfect hotbed for innovation with tons of ideas being developed.
Many brands have been involved in Hackathons, usually through sponsorship for quite a while. Other brands hold their own events as a way to find flaws in products, new ideas to explore and talent they could poach. If you’ve ever been to one of these events you will notice the rush and excitement that quickly takes over the room. This culture should be a vital part of how many new businesses operate, implementing the idea of regular innovation sessions with no KPIs other than quality of ideas.
So what is the future of brands in startup culture?
It really depends on which startup culture you’re talking about. For example, many young entrepreneurs exist in a different kind of culture to the ones mentioned. Most of the future leaders we met were launching businesses that wouldn’t fit into the traditional startup scene. Whether it was music or skate related, these individuals were not thinking about lean strategy or growth hacking in the same way yet they were still applying similar techniques. The events that would help their businesses grow were thanks to companies like The Young Guns Network who have been leading the way for many in music and media.
First it must be clear that we can’t look at all startup culture the same and realise it has numerous segments; whether that is the YouTuber, the event promoter or the app developer. We can’t automatically assume it’s an app or a tech venture; even though that is how we’ve come to associate most aspects of startup culture. Many young people are now part of this business culture and they don’t even know it. They have no idea about the theories, leaders and case studies to follow; they just have their passions, logic and a vision. I was like that many years ago but I also had a thirst to understand business and saw beyond just having a love for music. The ability to connect all this different knowledge is what will shape the future leaders and this is how brands are going to be involved in startup culture. I discussed this idea of a polymath generation.
First brands need to inform, inspire and connect!
Instead of just sponsoring and presenting at the next SXSW, brands will also start teaching audiences what it means to run a business. For example, in skate culture;The House of Vans host regular free workshops that teach young people about starting new businesses that are relevant to their lives, whether that’s a clothing brand or a new blog. This is startup culture and it’s a great way for brands to inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs.
This information and inspiration could be communicated through content and events; simple experiences that have huge power behind them. Whether that is setting up exclusive networking events or hosting talks and releasing content; brands can start building a community that will grow together. I’ve been to some events where the budget could’ve been less than £500 but the networking opportunities made it one of the most important experiences I had as a young entrepreneur. Brands will soon realise how powerful it can be to just simply connect people. I’m forever indebted to Red Bull, The Young Guns Network and a few other brands that helped me meet the like-minded entrepreneurs that made our business grow. It’s not all about the moola!
Then involve and support...
As well as creating a long-term strategy that inspires future and current entrepreneurs, brands will also look for more ways to involve themselves in startups; mainly through support schemes, events and partnerships. By hosting hackathons, brands will have access to unique talent that is focussed on solving their problems in return for rewards and collaborations. Throughout the year they will also host regular projects that are aimed at highlighting and developing new business owners. Chivas Regal launched The Venture to help support social entrepreneurs by providing funding and mentorship as well as a unique content stream to help inform and inspire. These kind of campaigns will become the norm as brands not only involve themselves in startup culture but find more ways to create value in society by supporting inspirational businesses.
Many of these startups will then make it close to the stages needed to become global businesses. The brands that inspired, informed and involved these ideas in their process will have a chance to also invest in these projects. Brands like Diageo have units like Distil Ventureswhich are looking for the next big drinks brand but also through their Technology Ventures programme looking at other marketing related investments. The idea of investment arms are already common in some large corporations however we think the focus should be on creating this journey from inspiration to investment as the knock-on effect would be greater and could also create an ethical foundation that allows both companies to integrate quicker.
Finally, brands should also be cautious about where and why they invest in startups. The youth market seems like a great area to support for many reasons. The next generation could have the ideas and the brains to transform our society but we need to find ways to give them the tools, platform and ethical foundation. The education system has failed many and will continue to do so; brands have an interesting opportunity here to not only shape future generations but to also fast-track many young people that are taking advantage of this access to limitless knowledge.
The scientific community is very separate from a lot of these cultures and is notably underfunded. As a result, some of the most important projects that could help us understand mental disease or even physical disabilities don’t get the attention they deserve; many of these projects could also be seen as startups.
Brands and agencies should look at modern startup culture in a new way. They have an opportunity to create a journey that many aspiring and emerging entrepreneurs could follow, whether artist, scientist or developer. Alternatively, brands and agencies could exist right at the end; only investing and communicating when the business seems big enough. This mentality will lead to more competition and the demise of many ad agencies and brands as technology and associated visionaries reimagine how things will work.
What do you think about the future of brands in startup culture? Join us at krpt.co.uk to explore how we’re celebrating the next generations ideas.
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