Coca-Cola announced the launch of a new entrepreneurship program at Fast Company’s Innovation By Design conference today, in conversation with Fast Company senior writer Linda Tischler. David Butler, Coca-Cola’s vice president of innovation and entrepreneurship, (who has written a book with Tischler) announced the Coca-Cola Founders program, a way for startups to gain access to Coca-Cola’s tremendous reach and for Coca-Cola to tap the ideas of independent entrepreneurs. The company goes into startup communities around the world and hand-selects founders, giving them insider access to Coca-Cola–both the company’s assets and its challenges. The founders’ ideas are then shaped by what they see inside Coca-Cola.
“It allows us to move much faster than we could internally using the least amount of money,” Butler said. “What they struggle with is scale,” he said–something that Coca-Cola does better than almost any company around. According to Butler, Coca-Cola is local in 207 countries, and sells roughly two billion servings of its products a day. The ideas–all still in development–that have emerged from the initiative include a food startup in Berlin, a mobile convenience store, and even a company related to wearables.
“The normal model working with a startup, you’re trying to find your strategic partnerships,” Butler said. “Startups come to big companies and try to get in. On the big company side, they pitch their thing, but how do we connect that [to what Coca-Cola does]? It’s very difficult.”
With the Coca-Cola Founders program, he said, “We’ve designed a new way to create startups”–one that not only helps grow Coca-Cola as a company, but allows them to churn out new products and services faster and cheaper.
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