In the Autumn of 2012 Sanoma launched the first in a series of innovation accelerators – the #mobileaccelerator – to foster intrapreneurship at the company. In the next three posts I would like to share with you why we took this initiative, what we have done so far and what we intend to do next with the accelerator program.
Sanoma is a front-runner in consumer media and learning in Europe, employing more than 10,000 professionals in some 20 countries, with the purpose of helping people to access, enjoy and understand the world. In 2012, the Group’s net sales totalled € 2.4 bn and the company is listed on the NASDAQ OMX in Helsinki.
Background to the initiative
Media and learning markets are undergoing fundamental transformation, enabled by digital. Consumers are driving change; always connected, consumers increasingly expect content to play at the time and on the device and with the interactivity of their choice. Advertisers are shifting their spending from inputs into buying measurable outcomes. And in learning – teachers, pupils, headmasters and parents are looking for new solutions that raise educational standards and support learning and teaching. These are the three domains of opportunity (consumers of media, advertisers and learning) which are shaping the transformation of Sanoma. But to be successful in capturing new opportunities, the company needs to find ways to innovate faster and be more agile than in the past.
Enter the Innovation Accelerator
With this purpose we developed the Innovation Accelerator program, under the leadership of the inspiring Lassi Kurkijärvi (@lassi, Director of Innovation & Development at Sanoma) in cooperation with the excellent Joris van Heukelom (@jorisheuk, Partner at Makerstreet).
We have two main goals for the overall program – i) to build new business lines in the three domains mentioned above (usually “mobile first”) and ii) to develop new skills in the organisation that will support the core business in the transformation journey to the digital future. An accelerator typically comprises several phases including ideation, training, developing minimum viable products and prototyping of the winning concepts at bootcamp. The ultimate winners are then given the opportunity to establish new ventures as intrapreneurs, but I will share more on that next time.
How will new ventures prosper at Sanoma – do they have a competitive advantage over independent start-ups?
We’re still too early into the series to call on this, but we’re optimistic. The Sanoma brand is reputable and helps to open doors to consumers, advertisers and schools. Easy access to media gives an operational and cost benefit. We have high levels of expertise in many areas, not only digital development, but also legal, financial and HR, not to forget significant expertise in content, advertising and learning markets. We have access to an international network, which can help to open up the world of opportunity (scale is critical to success in digital). And we can provide secure funding to the new ventures in their formative period. All-in-all a potentially powerful springboard that we believe can boost the prospects of a new venture. We will have to strike the right balance between entrepreneurial freedom and access to the resources of the corporation for this to work, but with care and attention this should be achievable.
Do the innovation accelerators offer benefits to the core business too?
Maybe the bigger benefits will actually be to the core business in the short-medium term. We expect that some of the ideas generated might help to inspire new developments at our core brands. We are training hundreds of people on “lean” development methods, teaching them new skills that can be used in the core business. In addition, the program and the ventures arising from it are a great way for Sanoma to source, motivate and retain entrepreneurial talent. And through this process we are building a bigger network in the start-up community, which helps to further boost innovation, including an innovative culture. I reckon this helps to affirm Sanoma as a cool and innovative media and learning company.
Next posting: how does an accelerator at Sanoma actually work and what have we done so far?
I would be interested to hear about other companies that have been sponsoring intrapreneurship.