Coca-Cola finds innovation with start-ups

Coca-Cola finds innovation with start-ups

The odds of a 129-year-old mega corporation unearthing innovative ideas or technology in-house are virtually impossible

Tel Aviv has a lively tech start-up scene. Boehme enthusiastically lists Tel Aviv's winning traits: five per cent of the population has PhDs; one start-up for every 1,800 Israelis; world leader in patents per capita; and world leader in research and development spending. Best of all, it's under the radar.

"Tel Aviv won't have the Wall Street Journal covering you every day," Boehme says.

After stints as an incubator and accelerator, Coca-Cola settled on being a start-up mentor that works with venture capital firms, not competes with them. Coca-Cola brings Israeli start-ups to the United States for training and expansion. Tapping its awesome marketing and branding expertise, Coca-Cola shows start-ups how to tell their stories to investors and customers and create buzz. Coca-Cola introduces start-ups to its partners in the supply chain, including giant retailer Walmart.

Even Coca-Cola's tech partners, such as Amazon, Google, Cisco and Microsoft, will throw in free technology for start-ups.

"We're a great launch customer," Boehme says. "We can try things anywhere in the world, see if it works, take it somewhere and scale it."

Today, Coca-Cola is looking at start-ups in five areas: customer engagement, consumer retail, supply chain, marketing, and health and wellness.

CIOs must refocus to innovate

In a way, Boehme's start-up mentorship program itself is an example of innovation. Coca-Cola wanted to be first in its market with unique technology, and Boehme struck upon a wholly new way (and place) to make this happen. He didn't follow an existing model, rather he made it up and pivoted as the program took shape.

The idea of being first may seem a bit startling to traditionally risk-adverse CIOs, yet it's something CIOs must get over to become innovators.

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