Are big businesses just getting involved in startups for the PR boost?

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 9 April 2015
SapientNitro MD Marcos Kurowski

Brands left, right and centre are entering the startup space. But whether they are looking to work with startups, trialling fixed-length programs, or setting up in-house incubators, brands may not be getting the most out of the programs.

According to SapientNitro's Australian MD, Marcos Kurowski, brands need to properly define what they want out of the experience otherwise the whole thing could be a waste.

“What are you trying to achieve as a big brand? There's the PR element, it makes your brand look good. The economic return, that tends not to be the driver. Then there's some other vague fluffy notion about tapping into innovation, learning and incubating ideas,” Kurowski said. “You've got to be more thoughtful about how you plan on importing the thinking or the idea into the business.”

“The cynic in me says for a lot of companies it's a bit more of a PR exercise than anything else. You could be generous and say they're experimenting and trying and learning along the way – which is also a valid point of view,” he added.

Most recently data and analytics company Quantium launched The Quantium Startup Event, aiming to work with entrepreneurs, individuals or startups. Quantium follows the likes of Mondelez, which ran its Mobile Futures program late last year and Telstra, who has its own incubator, Muru-D.

Kurowski said however that there could be another way for businesses and brands to get involved and that could be the investment model.

“The investment model is an interesting one,” he said. “You have to be very clear up front what you're really trying to get out of it.

“I recently heard one CEO talk about this and he was very clear, he expected 95% of the investment to fail and he was okay with that;

“That's good and that's healthy as long as you know that five dollars is going to create a return and some value for you.”

It's the investment model which interests SapientNitro globally, with Kurowski telling AdNews that the business is looking at a vehicle for this to be run out of the US.

For more of Kurowski's views on startups see this news analysis on the subject here, or pick up the latest copy of AdNews Magazine, available in print here or on iPad here.

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