What do you do?
Unilever Foundry is a global platform allowing us to partner with the world’s best startups to achieve our goal of using collaboration and innovation to make sustainable living common place. We have a unique focus by taking established startups on the route to scale up using a Pitch-Pilot-Partner approach to dramatically cut the time it takes to get a new initiative to market.
The aim is for both startups and Unilever to benefit from working together. we profit from the agility startups bring and the efficiencies that brings to the wider business, we bring our scale to startups that are ready for the next big stage of growth.
— The Unilever Foundry (@UnileverFoundry) February 20, 2017
Who are you aiming to help?
We look for partners that can provide solutions for both our brands and consumers. Brands are always open to new, innovative ideas and willing to take a leap of faith but the underlying tech has to be resilient enough to go to market. We would always look for startups that have started their own pilots early so that when it comes to piloting with larger brands like Unilever there is a product that’s ready to scale up.
How do you help people?
In addition to offering startups the chance to partner with some of Unilever’s biggest brands, we also provide them with a variety of services including mentoring. Our mentoring programme allows for Unilever Employees to gain exposure outside of Unilever and bring the key learnings back into the business, helping to build a more agile business.
We recently looked back at our first 100 pilots globally with startups to learn from our experience. Over 48% of our pilots resulted in a longer-term partnership and 45% of these then rolled out into multiple markets. So, while there are plenty of big brands who realise the possibilities, innovation and creativity that arises from working with startups – we also know our focus on scaling up makes us different.
— The Unilever Foundry (@UnileverFoundry) February 17, 2017
What are some examples of success stories?
One of Unilever Foundry’s existing partnerships is with Next Billion, a Singapore-based startup enabling companies to engage hard-to-reach consumers in emerging markets.
Last year, Unilever Foundry joined forces with Next Billion to launch Mobile Movies in Bangladesh. Mobile Movies is an initiative that is driven by networks of local agents who organise free film screenings for communities in rural areas.
Through Mobile Movies, we will be able to empower informed attitudes to hygiene, establish a stable supply chain to meet the needs of rural communities in Bangladesh and create jobs for the agents.
Initial field activities commenced from January 2016 this year and to date, 15 female entrepreneurs have been engaged as agents and over 700 presentations have been delivered. The surveys conducted at the sessions show a promising increase in the level of awareness of general hygiene practices.
Over the 12-week trial, more than 30,000 locals were engaged and close to 15,000 samples of Unilever’s Lifebuoy and Pepsodent were distributed.
In rural areas where advertising has limited scope and access to education is a challenge, this partnership is an exemplary example of a disruptive innovation that takes us a step closer toward our ambition of making sustainable living commonplace.
What tips would you give to 1) those looking to work with you 2) for success when they are in your program?
Brands will always want to see evidence proving your product works and not just technically. They’ll want to see the numbers and real world stats from pilots and focus groups, user engagement, sales uplift or brand impressions – so start collecting now.
And be ready to collaborate. Be open to advice and criticism but without losing the integrity of your business. Remember, you’re working together towards a solution that neither party could achieve on their own. Collaboration isn’t always easy, but it’s worth it.
How can people find out more?
Visit https://foundry.unilever.com/ to find out about any upcoming events or challenges and how to get involved with the Unilever Foundry.
See more in our interview with Johnny here