TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

How Corporations Can Better Work With Startups

One way that corporations spur innovation is by working with startups - through mechanisms such as corporate accelerators, venture builders and venture clients. Since 2013 the number of corporate investments in startups has nearly tripled from 980 in 2013 to 2,795 in 2018, and their value has risen from $19 to $180 billion, according to GCV Analytics, a company that tracks corporate venturing deals.

Yet the success rate of these initiatives is low. Research we conducted with chief innovation officers (CINOs) and others in similar roles in the United States, Asia and Europe, shows that around three quarters of corporate innovation initiatives fail to deliver the desired results. Failed projects don’t help a company fend off hungry, agile competitors.

To discover the challenges that arise in these initiatives, we talked to more than 120 CINOs in 22 sectors. They shared the challenges that derailed (or threatened to derail) their projects and described the approaches they deployed to surmount them. We found that three strategies are proving effective against 80% of the major issues.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

"A Lesson on Elementary, Worldly Wisdom" by Charlie Munger

What is elementary, worldly wisdom? Well, the first rule is that you can't really know anything if you just remember isolated facts and try and bang 'em back. If the facts don't hang together on a latticework of theory, you don't have them in a usable form.

You've got to have models in your head. And you've got to array your experience - both vicarious and direct - on this latticework of models. You may have noticed students who just try to remember and pound back what is remembered. Well, they fail in school and in life. You've got to hang experience on a latticework of models in your head.

What are the models? Well, the first rule is that you've got to have multiple models - because if you just have one or two that you're using, the nature of human psychology is such that you'll torture reality so that it fits your models, or at least you'll think it does. You become the equivalent of a chiropractor who, of course, is the great boob in medicine.

It's like the old saying, "To the man with only a hammer, every problem looks like a nail." And of course, that's the way the chiropractor goes about practicing medicine. But that's a perfectly disastrous way to think and a perfectly disastrous way to operate in the world. So you've got to have multiple models.

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TradeBriefs Editorial

From the Editor's Desk

Subject: Airbnb

Yesterday Fred Wilson published a remarkable post about missing Airbnb. VCs miss good startups all the time, but it's extraordinarily rare for one to talk about it publicly till long afterward. So that post is further evidence what a rare bird Fred is. He's probably the nicest VC I know.

Reading Fred's post made me go back and look at the emails I exchanged with him at the time, trying to convince him to invest in Airbnb. It was quite interesting to read. You can see Fred's mind at work as he circles the deal.

Fred and the Airbnb founders have generously agreed to let me publish this email exchange (with one sentence redacted about something that's strategically important to Airbnb and not an important part of the conversation). It's an interesting illustration of an element of the startup ecosystem that few except the participants ever see: investors trying to convince one another to invest in their portfolio companies. Hundreds if not thousands of conversations of this type are happening now, but if one has ever been published, I haven't seen it. The Airbnbs themselves never even saw these emails at the time.

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