Exactly three years ago, Google Inc. (Nasdaq: GOOG) co-founder Larry Page again took over as CEO, ten years after leaving the position. Eric Schmidt vacated the post to become chairman, and Page began to take the search giant in a new direction. Schmidt, who had been parachuted into the company in 2001 because of investor pressure as a responsible adult to turn the small and bubbling start-up into the corporate giant that Google has become. However, three years ago, it was decided to go back to basics, and not just with a personnel change, in order to give Google the feel and atmosphere of a start-up that it had lost over the years. The idea was to instill innovation, agility, and a faster pace of decision-making in a company with tens of thousands of employees.
This was only part of Google's strategy to feel younger and more innovative. In fact, the company is one of the most active buyers of start-ups and technology companies, with over 150 acquisitions amounting to billions of dollars. This method has brought many new faces to Google's departments, and kept its head above the water in a range of fields.
Google is not alone of course. Many enterprises in Israel and other countries are trying to bring in innovation through the back door. However big and smart they may be, these enterprises know that not all wisdom is found in the company's corridors, and that there is a need for some smarts and new thinking from outside, either through acquisitions, or more efficiently and smartly through strategic collaborations.
Examples are Qualcomm Corporation (Nasdaq: QCOM) and Deutsche Telekom AG (XETRA: DTE). The two giants have shown great interest in tiny Ness Ziona-based Magisto Ltd. and have embraced it. The Israeli company has developed an advanced app for editing video clips directly from smartphones. The app is installed in hundreds of thousands of Deutsche Telekom handsets and the company works closely with Qualcomm on future developments.
"Video is one of the key elements in 4G networks, which are far faster than their predecessors. We consume as much as Facebook or WhatsApp in almost the same way, but Deutsche Telekom sought the extra something to offer its users, and provide this with our video editing service," says Magisto co-founder and CEO Oren Boiman.
Boiman says that the collaboration with Qualcomm put it in the lead. "All of Magisto's technology and the set of products that we're developing are not part of Qualcomm's repertoire," he says. "They know how to make high-speed cameras, but we bring the product that is supposed to be the killer app, which can differentiate between what it sees through the camera, how to take automatic pictures, track the person in front of the camera, and so on.
"The advantage of big enterprises cooperating with start-ups is the added value and differentiation for their users when the need to answer the question whether our product causes their product to be better and different from other products. They know that they can't do everything in-house."
In Israel, too, the same feeling that the lack of innovation can be solved by linking up with start-ups is also understood. For example, Zap Group Ltd. linked up with several Israel start-ups to offer added value to its advertiser clients. Zap Group CEO Nir Lempert says, "Assimilating a start-up in a big company can give it many advantages, such as a system-wide perspective, relevant ties in Israel and other countries, and help solve relevant business problems from life and not just in theory."
Lempert says that the company's cooperation model with start-ups allows them use the large enterprises as a kind of beta site for various experiences and to see how things work in practice, and to change direction, if necessary. "We can install the product on our websites and apps and together try and promote the finished product in the world," he says.
Lempert says that two successful examples are MobeeArt Ltd., which began as a company for building mobile sites for small businesses, and now develops systems for managing a full digital presence for these companies, and Vcita Ltd., which began as a diary management solution for free professionals, and with the influence of Zap Group developed the product to manage leads for small businesses.
"The change and development was made at our demand and needs, and these products are now sold in a number of countries. These transactions are win-win for both sides," says Lampert.
Who will win smartup2?
"Globes", in collaboration with Bank Hapoalim (TASE: POLI) is launching the second annual SmartUp competition for Israeli start-ups. As part of the project, "Globes" correspondents will track three start-ups, which receive assistance from incubator experts and Bank Hapoalim advisers, based on the understanding that many companies with good groundbreaking ideas get stuck at the start because of difficulties that prevent them from achieving their potential.
The project is designed for Israeli companies that have raised at least NIS 250,000 in seed funding. Each company selected for the program will receive over three months advice from the high tech and business world on a range of topics relevant for early-stage start-ups, such as marketing, financing, human resources, and heading overseas. All they have to do is to register at smartup2 page (in Hebrew), and tell us why your start-up should participate. Participating companies will receive a start-up package from Bank Hapoalim, including a high-tech account at preferred terms and a NIS 20,000 grant.
The three winners will receive assistance from leading Israeli incubators and accelerators Explore.Dream.Discover, 8200 EISP, and Nielsen Innovate.
Published by Globes [online], Israel business news - www.globes-online.com - on May 21, 2014
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