When you envision a company that’s “disruptive,” you probably picture young startups tinkering away in a garage. But major food corporations also want to earn that title and keep a pulse on the newest consumer trends.
So how do large organizations that have been around for decades and span continents stay fresh and new? That’s exactly the question that Larry Portaro, Director of GE’s FirstBuild and Victoria Spadaro Grant, CTO of Barilla and President of Blu1877 tackled during a recent panel at SKS 2019.
If you’re part of a large company trying to emulate the agility and creativity of a startup, you should watch the whole panel video below. Here are a few insights into how large corporations successfully disrupt from within:
Independence is key
Firstbuild is a rapid-production hardware company that also happens to be a subsidiary of GE. While they may be part of a giant appliance company, Portaro emphasized on the SKS that having some level separation — their offices are actually 8 miles away from GE’s HQ in Louisville, KY — is key to building an innovative culture within their company. By establishing themselves as a separate entity, Firstbuild can have the freedom to experiment and really “mix up the DNA” of their parent company, as Portaro put it onstage.
Leverage resources for good
Just because these innovation arms operate independently from their parent companies doesn’t mean they can’t take advantage of their parent company’s resources. Blu1877, the venture arm of Barilla which fosters and invests in early-stage sustainable startups, was founded to “reach out for innovation that would not be in the mainstream,” according to Spadaro-Grant. While it’s a separate entity from Barilla, she made it clear that that doesn’t mean that one can’t help the other. In fact, Blu1877 depends on the “bigger machinery” of its parent company to help grow smaller startups within their incubator.
Add value to the parent company — and challenge them
“Our purpose is to… do the things that are a little crazy,” Portaro said at SKS. That’s how Firstbuild adds value to GE; by thinking outside the box, developing products outside GE’s typical scope and keeping the large company tapped into new hardware trends.
Sparado-Grant went one step further. She noted that innovation arms like Blu1877 don’t only exist to add value to their parent companies, but also to “challenge” them to reexamine their values and paradigms. That means not only sourcing new ideas from within, but also using their resources to foster young startup talent and help grow a new generation of sustainable food companies.