Ecosystem Spotlight: Corporate Innovators Huddle

Q&A with Corporate Innovators Huddle (CIH)

What is the origin story of the Corporate Innovators Huddle and who are the leaders of the group today?

The CIH was created as a merger of two existing groups: Corporate Venture Forum (CVF) and Innovation Executive Forum (IEF). The CVF group began when a number of us — including Austin Norohna from Sony and Harshul Sanghi from Amex — realized we didn’t have a forum to help each other and pass along lessons learned. Our first session was in the evening with beer, wine, and some cheese and crackers we picked up at Whole Foods.

The IEF group began when Paul Campbell from HP, Paul To from Nortel, Sebastiaan la Bastide from Roche, and Chenyang Xu from Siemens met at an Innovation Outpost leaders workshop at Stanford in 2009. They decided to create a group for Innovation Outpost leaders to help each other and exchange ideas on the latest corporate innovation trends and practices.

Today, the CIH is a volunteer-based, non-profit organization with 300 participants from 180 companies. Participation is limited to current practitioners of corporate innovation. We provide networking with a trusted cohort, sharing of best practices and trends, and informal peer learning across a variety of industries and geographies.

What are the core goals of the organization and target profile of the professionals who participate?

Our core goals are to:

  • Build skills to manage innovation and corporate venture successfully
  • Share expertise to solve today’s innovation and venture challenges
  • Provide an intimate and safe learning environment
  • Introduce new innovative and investment topics
  • Engage as a new innovative and corporate venture outpost in Silicon Valley

Our participant base includes like-minded innovators at large companies, intrapraneurs, and innovation and CVC executives. We are industry and geography agnostic.

What are the format and frequency of convening the different Huddle working groups and annual half-day events, including the Corporate Venture Forum, Innovators Executive Forum and the ?

We vote new members in after an interview and/or visit. There are no costs to join and we operate according to the Chatham House Rules. In our bi-monthly meetings, members are able to share expertise and experience, participate in compelling discussion, and engage their peers.

The IEF meets five times a year. In this format, external and member speakers share innovation trends, practices, and lessons learned while discussing new challenges and opportunities. Participants include global heads of innovation, innovation lab leaders, and leaders of innovation outposts, incubators, and accelerators.

The Corporate Innovation Unscripted and the CVF each meet annually for a half day event. CVF participants include Managing Partners, Managing Directors, and Heads of CVC practices, while the Corporate Innovation Unscripted Annual conference brings the IEF and CVF together to discuss the latest corporate innovation and investment trends.

How has the CIH evolved over the last few years, whether in its mission or nature of the member base?

There has always been an esprit-de-corps amongst corporate innovators and a recognition that we can help each other because our challenges, regardless of industry, are roughly the same. Whether we call it a peer group or a group therapy session, the shared learning is important.

Several things have changed, though. We’ve seen growth in the number of corporate innovation and corporate venture capital divisions. It’s increasingly seen as strategic and valuable to develop new business models and leverage emerging technologies for disruptive innovation. In fact, corporations that are most active as CVC investors have outperformed their peers and the overall market in both the short term and the long term. Corporate venture professionals used to be much more independent and only focused on financial return. Now, most CVC teams are also looking at strategic return and are collaborating with corporate innovation and business development teams in new ways.

Similarly, what are the latest trends you are seeing in corporate innovation/CVC worlds, broadly defined, especially given the current COVID environment?

We see companies turning to strategic innovation and investments. It’s increasingly important to consider the value from not only financial and corporate strategic returns, but also from impact. There’s a shift toward sustainable innovation with impact, as 99% of CEOs believe corporate sustainability will be important to future business success.

Our priority topics of interest include:

  • Future of work
  • Artificial intelligence and machine learning, big data, analytics
  • Block chain, digital payments, smart contracts
  • Customer journey experience, human-centered design, design thinking
  • Multiple experience — AR, VR, XR
  • Hyper automation/robotic/autonomous

What’s on the roadmap for the organization in 2021?

We will continue in virtual mode until it’s safe for face-to-face meetings and a return to attending innovation corporation centers and sites.

From a strategic perspective, we plan to focus on gathering corporate innovation and investment trends and best practices (e.g., measuring success, trends and priorities, and case studies).

How can interested readers learn more or raise their hand to express interest in joining these Huddles?

Silicon Foundry is an innovation advisory platform that builds bridges between leading multi-national corporations and global startup ecosystems.