Mobile Talks: Innovation through startups

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In an increasingly globalized, technology driven and competitive world, traditional innovation methods for big companies don’t work any more. These years these companies are struggling to face a global digital transformation process and adapt their processes quickly and effective. Therefore, here in Barcelona, El País Retina and Mobile World Capital Barcelona have teamed up to create Mobile Talks; forum for debates on digital transformation, analyzing innovation trends, mobile importance and the impact of new digital solutions on traditional business models.  




  Mobile talks include a series of events, which will take place every two months in both Barcelona and Madrid, Speakers will be always from the digital world; entrepreneurs, investors, accelerators, startups, heads of technology and R&D of big corporations. At Mobile talks you will find various options and advices from leading international experts on how to innovate and innovate efficiently. Mobile talks will allow you to be part of the discussion and think about challenges of the digital transformation and share experiences about it.  




  Thanks to Barcelona tech city, Apiumhub was invited to this first mobile talks and had a pleasure to be part of the discussion. The first Mobile Talks took place on October 11th in the Mobile World Centre in Barcelona. The speakers from different countries were invited to analyse the potential of corporate venturing as an innovation tool for corporations all over the world. We looked at how multinationals face their digital transformation processes, and how they develop and adopt new innovation methods through collaboration with startups, corporate venturing. The event was very interesting and without any doubt we will go to the next ones as well because you have a chance to speak with people who drive innovation in the world.  




  • Aleix Valls – CEO, Mobile World Capital Barcelona, an initiative driving the mobile and digital transformation of society and companies while helping improve people’s lives globally. MWCapital focuses on three areas: the digital empowerment of new generations, the digital transformation of industries; and the acceleration of digital innovation through entrepreneurship. MWCapital also hosts the Mobile World Congress and 4YFN.


  • Gregor Gimmy – founder and director of BMW Startup Garage, the BMW Group’s incubator for automotive startups in the seed stage, startups whose technologies can significantly advance the automotive sector.
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  • Dr Jens Pippig – founder and director of the accelerator ProSiebensSat.1


  • Jonathan Tudor – CEO of Castrol InnoVentures, the investment wing of the energy company British Petroleum.


  • Maurizio Rossi – Founder & co-CEO H-Farm SPA, a digital platform to help young entrepreneurs launch new initiatives and support the digitalization of traditional companies.


  • Jaime García Cantero – Content Director El País RETINA and advisor for many different start-ups.

  All speakers agreed on 1 thing: collaboration with startups is key for big corporations to innovate. Now it’s not even a question “to do or not to do”, it is a question of “how”. And there is no 1 formula, that would work for everyone, here it really depends on the business model you have, your objectives and strategies. Speakers shared with us their way of working with startups and the main conclusion from their talk is: you get much more benefits working with startups than trying to innovate themselves.  




  • Startups are more flexible
  • Agile
  • Fast, time to market
  • New Technology, that already well thought and developed
  • Good team, young and entrepreneurial spirit
  • Fresh ideas
  • Risk management
  • Working business model
  • Know how
  • Market and connections
  • Cheaper to buy, then develop in house

  Probably you have noticed reading the news from this or last year, that corporations are rushing into venture capital more and more, investing their money into startup companies working on the next big thing, on something new. It happens a lot in the retailer’s world as well, in using startups, rather than established IT suppliers, to build their technology solutions. In the US, big companies use startups as their competitive advantage and they do it for many years now, in Europe it is still quite new and companies here have a lot of potential to growth this way and have the first mover advantage.

I follow many Tech magazines, and every week I see more than 10 news about how different big companies buy promising startups. As discussed earlier, for large companies, it is often really cheaper to buy a startup specialising in the field in which they are looking to invest rather than spend the time and energy building something up from scratch. Don’t try to reinvent the wheel, look for startups that are successful in this industry and that can make a difference in your company.

Stephen Millard, CEO at retail accelerator Eccomplished, said startups are challenging the status quo because they are agile, responsive and lean, compared to large existing suppliers. And Sarah Venning, head of IT relationships at John Lewis, said that she likes to work with startups because they are fresh-thinking and can work much more quickly than large suppliers.

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Coming back to retailers, they know they need to innovate across online, mobile and in-store, to offer services their customers are expected to receive or even exceed their expectations. Many retailers admit that their larger partners cannot match the pace of innovation they need if they are to maintain or gain a competitive advantage. For example, Dixons’ Ghedia said that he finds startups agile, cost-effective and more flexible than larger IT suppliers and they have used startups for the trial of its “reserve and collect” mobile in-store application, as well as the electronic visual merchandising it has implemented in some of its newly refreshed stores. They also admit, that they enjoy working with startups, because startups tend to have fewer people, so the owners are also the day-to-day project team, leading to a faster briefing process and quicker decision-making. What I also found interesting from their interview is that larger tech companies are trying to replicate the startup mentality by becoming more agile themselves, but at the end they tend to have longer roadmaps, slower process and they are still not 100% agile. Today, the Bay Area is home to corporate labs, accelerators, and venture capitals, paradise for startup community. Many brands are looking for relationships with technology innovators, but don’t get stuck only with the US, in Europe you have startups hubs like Barcelona, London, Berlin, Paris, Stockholm, Copenhagen, Helsinki, Munich, etc.  



  • Samsung said it will invest $1.2 billion over four years in US startups working on Internet of Things applications.
  • ZTE Corp will set up a $180 million fund to invest in mobile application and technology startups in order to diversify
  • HTC formed a consortium of venture funds to invest in virtual-reality startups
  • HP Inc. is looking for startups developing 3D printing technologies, immersive computing, artificial intelligence, and the Internet of Things.
  • set up a $50 million venture fund as well as an incubator for cloud startups

  Corporate venture funding is not new. Google, Cisco, IBM, and others have run such funds for years. And it is growing, growing very fast. More and more corporations are deciding on working with startups because they understand how important it is to keep their finger on the pulse of innovation, said Bobby Franklin, president and CEO of NVCA. And software startups are the most popular ones, receiving $1.2 billion in the 2016 only in the first quarter. Biotechnology startups are the second ones in terms of popularity, with $320 millions.  




Financial Times partnered with London-based Collider, a tech business accelerator focusing on innovation in marketing and advertising. FT work with Collider on a programme for its product, technology and commercial team with a goal to stimulate new ideas and answer questions on how to best serve clients and readers in the future. Basically the programme includes: innovation workshops providing practical skills for staff to work effectively with startups, deep dives focused on generating creative solutions to problems using new technologies.  

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John Lewis launched Jlab, a startup incubator in London, to find new technologies to use in its stores. John Lewis chose five startups, the winning startup was specialised in micro-location technology.  



Unilever has developed a programme named The Unilever Foundry to provide startups opportunity to collaborate with leading company and work on sustainable and innovative projects together.    





AltSchool, based in Silicon Valley wants to change the education system. It aims to create a software platform that both private and public schools can use to provide personalized learning in their classrooms. Students and teachers create individual playlists of tasks and projects for each student. Their progress is showed to parents using a portal app  



It’s adaptive learning platform is free to teachers, students and parents, and tracks students’ learning to deliver programs based on their personal progress.  



Looklive’s specialized technology identifies where you can purchase the exact items of clothing worn by people you like.  



Ubeam released a transmitter, wireless energy that charges your personal devices.    




  As I have already mentioned earlier, Mobile talks are planned to be held in Barcelona and Madrid in the coming months.Next ones will be about latest technological trends and the potential of Mobile, digital transformation on traditional business models and innovation. Upcoming talks you can find here. And don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly newsletter to always be updated with upcoming events and receive latest trends and articles about this topic.


Don’t forget to subscribe to our monthly newsletter to receive a list of upcoming tech events in Barcelona!


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