Jonathan Hammond, Head of Unilever Foundry tells us about the company and its pursuit to find innovative startups. We  featured them in February 2017 here.

Can you tell us a little bit about Unilever Foundry?

The Unilever Foundry seeks out new and innovative startups to link up with Unilever’s 400 plus brands. The global platform creates partnerships and collaborations that benefit our consumers and to achieve our business mission to grow sustainably as part of the Unilever Sustainable Living Plan. We search for startups innovating in the areas of: product & ingredients, consumer insights, new business models, sustainability & social entrepreneurship and enterprise tech.

The Unilever Foundry works hard to ensure all of these new exciting ideas have practical application for Unilever to solve genuine business challenges, so we can be sure these partnerships will benefit our brands and most importantly, consumers.

Most of the people in our team have worked in a startup or tech environment; they understand the different ways of working and the entrepreneurial mentality needed to succeed in this space. What makes Unilever Foundry successful is the ability to get into that experimental and collaborative mind-set and leverage unique ways of thinking. 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. This approach allows us to learn and adapt at each stage.

How have the last 12 months been since we last featured you?

We’ve had an exciting 12 months with a variety of different projects and partnerships. Unilever Foundry opened a new collaborative work space in Dublin with leading startup hub, Dogpatch Labs. We recently hosted a successful ‘Meet the Startups’ event in association with Dogpatch Labs which led to 19 startups being identified as potential matches for collaboration with Unilever brands. Our work within Ireland has also seen the release of two new briefs outlining challenges that need solving through ice cream beacons and meal inspiration in store. 2017 has also seen us opening up a co-working and innovation space in Singapore with our partners Padang & Co, called LEVEL3.

Additionally, we announced that global dressings brand Hellmann’s has partnered with on-demand delivery startup Quiqup to deliver fresh ingredients to consumers at the click of a finger. Through Unilever Foundry and our unique Pitch-Pilot-Partner process, Hellmann’s and Quiqup were identified as an ideal match for a project that directly engaged with a new audience.

One of our other recent partnerships has been between Skip, the global laundry brand, and emerging French startup and laundry app, Cowash, to provide the ultimate sharing economy led laundry experience. Skip formed the partnership with Cowash following a competitive pitch through the Unilever Foundry, as part of a search across Europe for a new business model in digital laundry services.

This partnership utilises Cowash’s ability to create a living community for Skip to tap into, while offering a new sustainable and easy to use solution for pooling laundry. The pilot launched in Paris in September this year.

Anything you would have done differently?

Unilever Foundry’s role is to test, learn and iterate with all the pilots that we launch. We believe in learning from projects and pilots, and using the insight we gain to fuel what we do in the future. As in any industry, projects and plans can change, and sometimes they don’t lead to further work. Learning by doing is such an important part of the Unilever Foundry culture.

Tell us more about the white paper, who is it aimed at, and what has the response been?

Our ‘State of Innovation’ white paper is a global study that looks at how the relationship between corporates and startups will continue to evolve as the Unilever Foundry continues its journey looking for exciting new partnerships. The research was conducted with heads of innovation, brand managers and startups throughout India, Singapore, UK and the US. The white paper identifies three predictions on how the industry will change over the next decade:

Startups and corporates to work side by side in the same office by 2025

  • 90% of corporates already working with a startup expecting to continue to do so in the future.
  • Both startups and corporates look for a co-operative approach, where learning something new (85% Brand Managers / 88% startups) and improving efficiency (81% both) are the two most important reasons for working together.
  • Unilever Foundry predicts physical shared working spaces will become commonplace to facilitate growth and break down barriers to collaboration.

The future of corporate and startup innovation; a short-term boom in ‘tech tourism’ but structured programmes emerging as the long-term winner

  • Unilever Foundry predicts an initial rise in ‘tech tourism’ over more structured models, as corporates focus on less formal partnerships and shorter-term goals.
  • Startups value smooth procurement processes (89%) and access to resource and networks (88%), followed by measuring achievements (87%) and opportunity to scale (87%).
  • Four out of five (80%) corporates believe that startups can have a positive impact on a large company’s approach to innovation.

Startup and corporate collaboration will evolve from an optional extra to a business-critical investment in the next five years.

  • Four out of five corporates (79%) and startups (78%) anticipating more collaborative work in the future.
  • 46% of startups who have not worked with corporates are likely to do so in the future. rising to 91% among those who have experience of working together.
  • Nine in ten (89%) startups believe they’re able to deliver business solutions which can scale.

Looking forward, what are you excited about?

We’re extremely excited to remain at the forefront of the corporate and startup collaboration space. In just over three years, we’ve launched over 100 pilots with two thirds of our brands seeing an increase in revenue and three quarters generating above average campaign engagement. We’re looking ahead to our next stage of innovation as we continue to pioneer with new technologies and ideas for our brands.

Tell us about some of the successes from the Unilever Foundry?

We partnered with Next Billion, a Singapore-based startup that enables companies to engage hard-to-reach consumers in emerging markets. We joined forces with Next Billion in Bangladesh to launch Mobile Movies, an initiative that is driven by networks of local agents who organise free film screenings for communities in rural areas.

Through Mobile Movies, we were 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. Since its launch, 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 soap and Pepsodent toothpaste were distributed.
Another great example of our work is our partnership with Chef Wendy. This pilot saw a fully automated chef give recipe suggestions via SMS. This was two or three years before anyone started to take AI and Chatbots seriously which of course are now becoming commonplace. The learnings we gained from the Chef Wendy pilot have been instrumental in our chat bot and AI roll out since.

How can people find out more about it?

The State of Innovation report can be read here, and people can find out more about the company be visiting the Unilever Foundry website here.

If you would like to have your company featured in the Irish Tech News Business Showcase, get in contact with us at [email protected] or on Twitter: @SimonCocking

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