Ecosystem Spotlight: KITE
KITE is the leading SaaS platform for enterprises, consultants, accelerators and investors to collect, aggregate, manage and share their partner data. With KITE, these groups work more efficiently and transparently, accelerate smarter decisions, and increase the number of partnerships and outcomes.
KITE Founder and CEO, Mark Silva, has founded multiple companies connecting the world’s biggest and best enterprises with emerging, disruptive technologies. He is an active board director, advisor, investor and speaker at the intersection of enterprise+startups on stages such as TechCrunch Disrupt, CES, MWC and SXSW.
What was the origin story and early vision you had for KITE?
Corporate leaders were regularly visiting Silicon Valley and meeting startups via personal introductions or at events, but they would go back to their home offices and take no action. This became known among founders, accelerators and VCs as the “petting zoo” effect. Our founders’ backgrounds include building Crunchbase, global consultancies and venture roles, and corporate accelerators. We saw a huge problem and broken system at the intersection of venture, tech, consulting, enterprise, media and events that resulted in massive inefficiencies, missed opportunities and few outcomes. We knew there had to be a better way, with software doing the heavy lifting.
From our inception, the KITE vision was clear: unite all parts of the innovation ecosystem on a single system. Since that platform did not exist, we decided to build it. In true Silicon Valley fashion, we sketched the first version of KITE on the back of a napkin. As with all maturing platforms and markets, we’ve added elegant features, integrations and capabilities based on customer feedback loops. The form factor, user interface and distribution have evolved, but the original vision remains as relevant today: our True North.
Our tagline is “We rise together.” We continue to receive validation that connecting the ecosystem — enterprises, startups, consultants, accelerators and investors — will facilitate the greatest reallocation of resources and assets to innovators and new ventures, eclipsing the size and value creation of venture today.
What was the compelling need and opportunity you saw as an entrepreneur to define a new category and bring your solution to market?
We sum up “compelling need” in one word: scale — as a challenge, opportunity and total addressable market. We saw a mess and, more importantly, a big unaddressed opportunity to make a difference. We recognized that every Global 2000 enterprise has the same problem: they know how to operate at scale, but working with early-stage companies requires very different processes and purpose-built tools. And with enterprises investing enormous resources into evolving their products, business models and markets, even disrupting themselves and their businesses, they are creating a massive addressable market estimated in the tens of billions.
When KITE launched in 2013, the innovation market was emerging. In addition to in-house efforts and scouting outposts, corporations were relying on activities like Silicon Valley tours, VC firm briefings, strategy sessions with consultants like Silicon Foundry and accelerators rightfully focused on helping startups over transforming the enterprise. These innovation activities and ecosystem infrastructure remain vital to adopting world-class innovation, and all these inputs lead mature corporate venturing practices to recognize the need for a platform to address enterprise needs at scale.
How has the market changed since you launched KITE?
We’ve seen the innovation market mature quickly in the past few years, which speaks to the abundant opportunity KITE staked out. Across industries, business leaders recognize that great ideas can come from anywhere and that the outside is moving faster than the inside.
Companies offering startup consulting and scouting, like Silicon Foundry, Plug and Play and EY, are providing scalable solutions for enterprises. Corporate venture capital has become a service thanks to pioneers like Touchdown Ventures.
We’ve seen countless examples of startups doing amazing work as a result of these corporate partnerships. For instance, LISNR founder Rodney Williams pitched Visa in 2015 as part of their inaugural cohort for the Visa Everywhere Initiative, a global innovation program that tasks startups to solve commerce challenges as well as further their own product propositions and provide solutions for Visa’s vast network of partners. Based on the success of the initial partnership, LISNR expanded its model to payment tech — their ability to transmit data over audio waves now authenticates transactions — and got on the radar of Visa’s investment team. LISNR received funding from Visa in 2019 and follow-on investment this year because doing so was consistent with Visa’s larger strategy to partner with and invest in companies providing critical infrastructure for digital payments.
Speaking of scale, from the inaugural program in 2015, Visa has scaled its program globally to engage startups in emerging technologies, markets and capabilities — over 7,000 startups on six continents and in over 100 countries. The company also has more startups using their APIs in ways not seen before and participating in a FastTrack Corporate Development program. Many of these startups are “Visa ready,” meaning they can scale using Visa’s infrastructure. This diversity, volume and global expansion of strategic engagement with startups means Visa operates at an unprecedented level of speed, efficiency, integrity, collaboration and scale.
How has the KITE platform evolved since its inception and who uses KITE today?
We have built KITE based on valuable insights from and working closely with our customers. Along the way, we discovered that enterprise innovation and business units, accelerators, consultants and investors share a similar interface and have similar needs when it comes to engaging with the ecosystem at scale. We enable all these use cases — no matter the industry — as they relate to collecting, aggregating, managing and sharing partner data. KITE is leveraged in nearly every sector, including CPG, insurance, financial services, government, pharma, media and entertainment, manufacturing, government, sports and more.
For example, P&G Ventures uses KITE to centralize and organize applications for its innovation challenges, notably as part of its presence at CES, as well as to track those companies over time.
One of the largest banks in the world has on-boarded 24 different divisions on KITE and is growing. This gives them a single system for centralizing and tracking their partnership progress and having visibility across business units.
Combient, a unique regional innovation hub that counts Nordic powerhouses like KONE, Scania and Husqvarna among its 30 members, uses KITE to solve challenges through open innovation programs and by connecting them with partners.
Comcast NBCUniversal LIFT Labs, which is powered by Techstars, is an accelerator housed within a leading, Philadelphia-based innovation group that is elevating capabilities enterprise-wide; we’re thrilled to share their stellar 2020 class with a KITE report.
Silicon Foundry, a corporate innovation advisory firm, manages its partner data on KITE and serves insights to customers via the platform.
Similarly, VC firm Anthemis leverages KITE to share startup insights and landscapes with its limited partners, which are large incumbent financial and insurance institutions.
As we bring on more of the ecosystem, we have made great strides towards saving millions of hours through inefficient tools and dollars invested in homegrown systems to ultimately get to greater outcomes faster.
It is safe to say 2020 has been a unique year. Which changes from 2020 can we expect to see carried into next year and beyond?
The question of changes for us focuses on those sectors, disciplines and behaviors where: disruption was inevitable and simply accelerated by the pandemic; those that are structural and will require long-term commitment; and those that are reactive and may recede as business returns to some form of a new normal. The reactive category will become evident, and you can already see public and private market investment weighing in on potential winners and losers. On the acceleration path, we have seen companies of all sizes embrace and increase commitments to digital transformation and open innovation.
On structural and long-term changes, we’ve seen innovation leaders like Visa and Comcast double down on their commitments to diversity, equality and inclusion this year, and we expect that will continue. Innovation allows us to question our systems and assumptions: we don’t have to do things the same way. We believe innovators will prioritize founders from diverse backgrounds in their open innovation programs and corporate venturing activities, and we are proud to integrate the Crunchbase API for tracking progress in this area.
Since it’s going to be Q3-Q4 2021 before most people consider going to in-person events, we expect business leaders will continue to discover and manage potential partners with software, along with recommendations from their trusted partners, intros from their personal networks, etc. Ultimately, using a platform like KITE is proving to be a more efficient, precise and enduring solution to complement the time we can return to a tentpole or industry event. The startup ecosystem is one of the fastest to pivot and adapt, so they are embracing new ways of working and collaborating — plus, saving time and resources will outlast the pandemic.