Partnerships between startups and large companies key to 'smart disruption': Optus

An Optus report concludes that big established companies and startups should form mutually-beneficial relationships in order to thrive in the digital age.

Optus' latest report Smart Disruption: A Perspective on Innovation for Australian Organisations backs what many companies, entrepreneurs, and thought leaders have said before: that big established companies and startups should form synergistic, mutually-beneficial relationships in order to thrive in the digital age.

During the study, Optus interviewed 25 senior decision-makers in established companies, including CEOs, CIOs, CXOs, and CDOs, to identify trends, challenges, and ways to achieve "smart disruption", which Optus Business said was "disrupting your own business to better anticipate evolving customer needs".

The study found that startups and established companies want to learn from one another, but don't know how to go about it.

"[Startups and established organisations] need to embrace a new mindset of collaboration and partnerships, where learnings are freely shared," said John Paitaridis, Managing Director of Optus Business, in a statement.

"Established organisations have the systems, processes and scale that startups need as they grow; while the culture, agility and energy of startups is what established organisations are looking for to drive innovation."

The last three years have seen an increase in the number of partnerships between large companies -- the big four banks, telcos, postal services, law firms, and accounting firms -- and startups.

Large companies are typically more focused on meeting short-term growth targets and often struggle to maintain an ideas-driven culture and pursue innovative projects, the report claims. Early-stage startups, on the other hand, aren't bound by the same constraints and focus on the product and business model.

"Those Australian companies that do have a high-performing innovation culture are mostly startups or early stage companies. They have a strong focus on continually developing ideas, and there is an expectation from within that developing and questioning new ideas is part of an employee's day job," the report states.

"These companies have structured themselves to actually work on the business rather than in the business."

Rather than succumbing to disruption, large companies are realising they need to embrace it to stay relevant in an ever-evolving consumer landscape, and they are doing so by partnering with forward-thinking startups.

Startups, on the other hand, struggle with capital, developing systems and policy, access to markets, growth management, and effective leadership, according to the report, and this is where large companies can help.

"Currently in Australia, only one in 20 startups succeed. Startups need support from industry -- mentoring, advisory and access to markets -- and established organisations that provide this support will benefit from access to innovative methodologies, agile ways of working and exposure to a digital-first mindset," said Paitaridis.

Back in 2013, the Commonwealth Bank of Australia (CBA) launched a startup of its own called MyWealth, after bringing on a Silicon Valley entrepreneur Lisa Frazier to head up internal innovation projects. Frazier, who served as chief innovation officer and chief digital officer at CBA before moving onto to her latest role as senior advisor at Citi Fintech, said the great thing about launching a startup within a large organisation is that you get to leverage the best of both worlds.

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