“There are tasks that lie outside our comfort zone” – the intrapreneurs at Kickstart

November 5 2018
Next to the 30 finalist startups, also five intrapreneurship teams participated in the 2018 Kickstart program – more than ever before. We notice a growing interest in the topic of intrapreneurship. Here is what it’s all about.

Did you know that the post-it sticky notes you probably use every day, were invented by an intrapreneurship team? The same applies for Gmail, the Sony Playstation, and other famous inventions. The term “intrapreneurship” is composed of “intracorporate” and “entrepreneurship” and was first used by the US entrepreneur Gifford Pinchot back in the 1980s. Pinchot described intrapreneurs as “dreamers who do”, employees of a large company with extraordinary creativity, courageous ideas and entrepreneurial talent, who work autonomously and dedicatedly on their own projects, next to their “normal” tasks at work. Intrapreneurship is a bottom-up approach to enable innovation within a company. To get back to the famous post it note; the self-sticking paper to make notes was invented more than 40 years ago by scientists at 3M. The idea itself was actually born by chance, and could have easily been forgotten after some time. However, as 3M gave their employees the possibility to dedicate a certain amount of their work time for their own projects, the idea was developed further – and turned into a product that should not be missing on any office desk today.

Innovation as top priority – and biggest challenge

Not only 3M, but also Google and other companies have recognized the value of giving their employees the flexibility and time to work on own projects next to their daily work. A reason for this is the rising pressure to innovate: Enterprises across all industries are confronted with the effects of digital change. In order to stay competitive, innovative ideas are constantly in demand, which makes innovation a top priority, but also a great challenge for companies. The larger and more international a company is, the more complex its organizational structures become. This implies a certain lack of flexibility, which makes the implementation of new ideas becomes more complicated and time-consuming. That’s why companies look for alternative ways of innovating,  such as collaborating with startups, or, as an alternative, fostering “entrepreneurship within the organization”, thus enabling intrapreneurship.

Growing interest in intrapreneurship

Kickstart puts its focus on both topics: On one hand, we make collaboration between startups and large companies and organizations possible. On the other hand, we support intrapreneurs coming from our partner companies. The interest in the latter has grown noticeably. While, in the first two editions of Kickstart, we supported one intrapreneurship team each, in 2018 already five intrapreneurship teams took part in the program. Credit Suisse, Swisscom and Migros were all bringing intrapreneurship teams into the program. “The pressure to be innovative, to meet changing market needs and to prevail against the competition has increased,” says Kickstart Program Lead Katka Letzing. “This makes intrapreneurship more and more important.”

The intrapreneurs batch of 2018.

Out of the comfort zone

The 2018 intrapreneurs worked on various projects; the OLIQ team from Mibelle Group (Migros), for example, works on an oral vitamin spray, while Menu Casa (Migros) is specialized on home delivery service of healthy and delicious meals for people in the prime of life. At the same time, Robo VC, an intrapreneurship team from Swisscom, applies Artificial Intelligence to support investors in the venture capital industry making their investments. As diverse as their projects are, at Kickstart all intrapreneurs are confronted with very similar challenges: “The pace is high; intrapreneurs have to develop new models, develop their products, process a lot of information and at the same time cooperate with their organizations in the right way,” Katka Letzing says. In workshops and together with a great pool of high-class mentors and experts, the intrapreneurs learn classical innovation methods, identify their target group, improve their product and define their go-to-market strategy. Michael Meier from the intrapreneurship team from Club School Migros is well aware of the fact that “there are many tasks that lie outside our comfort zone. But our project had reached a point where it needed new inputs. Now we are presented with so many ideas, that it is challenging to free up sufficient resources in addition to your daily work. We see the time at Kickstart as an opportunity to push the project forward intensively.”

Samer Alshamkany & Colin de Silva from BankPay with Zurich Mayor Corine Mauch.

Samer Alshamkany from BankPay, an intrapreneurship team from Credit Suisse, says: “At Kickstart, we are able to experiment, learn, change direction, experiment and learn again in a short period of time with as much flexibility as possible”. Also, the intrapreneurs get the unique opportunity to pitch their projects in front of C-level representatives of their own company, for example during the Opening Ceremony or at the CEOs and Founders Dinner.

Many of the Kickstart intrapreneurship projects are still up and running, such as the car-renting-and-sharing service UPTO, which initially started at Kickstart in 2017. In the meantime, we cannot wait to see a new intrapreneurs batch coming in for 2019 and to continue this success story.

Fotos by Anja Wurm & Thomas Meier, Ringier