Moving at the speed of a startup “most bullshit phrase ever” - Isobar CEO

Sarah Homewood
By Sarah Homewood | 10 August 2015
Konrad Spilva, CEO for Isobar Australia and New Zealand

One of the most over-used phrases in adland has to involve acting like a startup, or enveloping startup culture into already established businesses. Skyscanner marketers say it and Leo Burnett's promotes its "beta mode mantra", but CEO of the Isobar Group for Australia and New Zealand, Konrad Spilva, reckons the "startup" phrase is not only annoying, but it’s also bullshit.

Opening the Sydney arm of Isobar’s Summit Series, Spilva said: “Moving at the speed of the startup, I hear it all the time, it’s the most annoying bullshit phrase ever.”

Spilva explained that while startups are sexy and unencumbered, it can be very difficult for big businesses and traditional marketing departments to really embody the spirit of a startup.

“How are the hell are we supposed to move at the speed of a startup? We can’t it’s basically impossible.

“We’ve got old legacy business models, businesses that have been organically built from the ground up - they’re quite hierarchical, and we’ve got old technology that’s really expensive to move on,” he added.

It isn’t all dire though, he explained that one thing heritage businesses do have is they’ve got people, they’ve got staff, they’ve got talent and they’ve got money.

“We’ve got brands and brand equity that’s been built-up, not over four to five years but for 30 to 40 to 50 years and most importantly we’ve got customers.”

One thing Spilva mentioned when it comes to businesses trying to stave of disruption and startups is they need to get better in investing money in the right places.

“The thing in Australia is we’re super quick to adapt, we’ve adapted to the age of disruption and the age of the customer but the problem is we’re really slow to innovate in Australia.

“In businesses we develop customer experience teams and we hire a head of innovation, we launch innovation labs and we stack it full of cool emerging technologies and say: “Hey, we’re innovative now”. But in reality if you look at our rate of investment in innovation and R&D we [Australia], when it comes to developed economies, rank around 21st out of 27. I reckon that’s pretty scary in today’s market.”

Spilva explained that in order to take on the startups, it's vital to  make sure as a business you disrupt your business before someone else does.

“Startups they’re sexy but they don’t have customer, they don’t have money, they don’t have people, they don’t have brand equity, so we need to take the time to out pace those startups and disrupt ourselves before we get disrupted.”

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