The Corporate Garage: Getting start-up agility and spirit into the corporate world

By Henrik Bo Larsen, ICDK Deputy Director and Innovation Officer

How do corporates find innovation capacities?

During my time in Silicon Valley, I have experienced a large number of pitches from start-up companies. The story is almost always along the same path: After being inspired to develop an excellent business idea, an entrepreneurial group of very skilled and bright people decide to start a company. And then the problems ensue:

They need to secure finance, get an organization established, develop and launch products, perform quality control, manage HR and regulatory affairs… Just to mention a few. All these issues turn out to be skills and capabilities that larger corporations already know all about.

However, not only does the start-up need skills that larger company are good at: when looking further into the life of a start-up: as cheap and easy access to technologies means that as soon as a start-up gets a whiff of success, it has to race against dozens of copycats from competing start-ups, who try to get the same idea off the ground. This is also a challenge which is similar to what existing organizations face.

Combining the strengths of start-ups and corporations
This is a very interesting dilemma. As an entrepreneur you need your swiftness and courage to start a company, but from thereon you need the structure and processes of an established company to really succeed. On the other hand, the agility needed to get new ideas off the ground is not what you see most of in established companies.

This is clearly a dilemma for every organization: it being new or well-established, big or small. How do you balance the agility of a start-up to develop new businesses with the structure and processes to grow the businesses?

Many large corporations try to answer this dilemma by establishing what managing partner at Innosight, Scott Anthony, calls “The New Corporate Garagein a Harvard Business Review article. The popular perception is that most corporations are just too big and deliberate to produce new game-changing inventions.

Hence a growing number of large Silicon Valley companies try to attract entrepreneurial individuals, or “catalysts,” that can use the mother company’s resources, scale, and growing agility to develop solutions to global challenges in ways that few others can. Intel, Google, Cisco, and SAP are examples of such companies.

How to launch a corporate garage within your company?
The big companies need to carefully consider the implementation of such corporate garage models when inviting catalyst entrepreneurs. At Innovation Center Denmark we consider the following three innovation capabilities when planning for a corporate entrepreneurship endeavor:

  1. Business models: Most business strategies I have read either try to justify the current business model or defend it. The company needs to develop the capabilities to understand the business model options in a broader sense – even those models that eventually will cannibalize your current solid performance business.
  2. Technologies: The big corporate needs to know and understand the recent technology developments of its and similar industries and consistently scan and scout for potential technology development and ideas in the entrepreneurial underground. This scouting often needs to come from outside the current domain of the company’s expertise, and the company need to develop capabilities to gain new ground.
  3. Mindset: Corporate leaders must critically examine to what degree their organization and themselves are capable of working together with the incoming entrepreneur catalyst. How do you and your organization deal with change and new ideas? Is your current mindset ready to explore new opportunities and to exploit the current business model and technology paradigms? And at the same time apply the structure and processes needed but keep the freedom of the entrepreneurial mindset?

As Lewis Lehr, the former CEO of 3M, put it: Innovation can be a disorderly process, but it needs to be carried out in an orderly way. The truly good manager finds the means to manage a disorderly innovative program in an orderly way without inhibiting disorderly effectiveness.

The World Champion in Tech is found!

Cutting edge technology is not only being developed in Silicon Valley. New and exciting business models are being tested and deployed by new start-ups every single day globally. The World Cup Tech Challenge hosted by SV Forum and held at the Microsoft Campus in Mountain View is an excellent opportunity to gain insight in some of the technologies currently being developed all over the world. It also  highlights that the battle of successful launches and landing venture capital is becoming still more hyper-competitive.

Continue reading “The World Champion in Tech is found!”

Haven’t experienced SCALEit and Silicon Valley yet?

4. Scale_it_Pic1Then here is your chance! Come join us for the next round of SCALEit Ignite on November 10-14, 2014.

If you have a tech business that’s scalable, and an ambition to sell your product globally, then opportunity awaits! Come to Silicon Valley for one intense and exciting week with SCALEit Ignite!

SCALEit Ignite connects Denmark with Silicon Valley by providing a unique opportunity of learning, knowledge-sharing and accesss to world class networks for tech start-ups that will need to scale.
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SCALEit has given more than 75 Danish start-ups a one week boot camp in and around Silicon Valley with a life changing effect:

“SCALEit is an excellent opportunity to get a short glimpse into the extreme ecosystem of Silicon Valley. It’s a door opener for talking to the right people in the industry as well as getting an understanding for how and why Silicon Valley works. The program is very intense and condensed but provides immense value. If you are interested in getting into the US market this program is for you and should not be missed. The value it provides comes back tenfold.”
Dennis Kayser, CEO of (attended Juli 2014)

”SCALEit helps companies Think Big, start small and grow fast. That’s the exact “need match” and ingredients mix needed by any company with an idea and product potential. So if Danes and Danish entrepreneurs are the brain – SCALEit is the process of helping that brain find a great body for getting going! Is that important? – Well I think it’s essential!”
Jan Futtrup Kjaer, CEO of (attended September 2014)

We are now recruiting the best and the brightest Danish entrepreneurs for November 10-14, 2014. Please apply here. We follow up on all applications either with a personal meeting or a Skype conversation.

Read more on our SCALEit facebook page and on

We look forward to hearing from you!


Nordic Innovation House opens in Silicon Valley

1. Nordic House_1

Nordic Innovation House was officially launched in September 2014 with the main goal of supporting nordic start-ups to develop and scale their ideas in Silicon Valley.

On September 24th the Nordic Innovation House was opened with a  launch party at the headquarters at 470 Ramona Street in Palo Alto. More than a hundred guests from the Nordic community made their way to the opening to celebrate.


The house is to work as a co-working space, incubator, resource center and networking hub for Nordic tech start-ups. One of the main goals of The Nordic Innovation House is to reduce barriers for Nordic start-ups ready to ”take the plunge” and come to Silicon Valley, to kick-start their business and to help them scale.

The Nordic Innovation House is co-funded by Nordic Innovation and the Nordic country government agencies responsible for business growth within their respective countries, which include: Innovation Norway, VINNOVA -Sweden, Innovation Center Iceland, Innovation Center Denmark and Team Finland/Finpro.

aaland_20140924DSC_2130From the left: Hartti Suomela (FinPro/Team Finland), Anne Lidgaard (Vinnova), Lene Sjorslev Schulze (Innovation Center Denmark), and Gro Eirin Dyrnes (Innovation Norway). See the blog for more pictures.

Innovation Center Denmark’s own Deputy Director and Advisor Lene Sjørslev Schulze (@lsjorslev) is member of the board.

When asked: what is the value of merging all Nordic activities in Silicon Valley in one house? Lene Sjørselv Schulze answers:

“We will be able to pull together our resources and join years of experience from similar programs to create a best practice scenario. The resources and network we can offer our entrepreneurs and start-ups will multiply, meaning we can offer much more targeted introductions and meetings to the individual entrepreneur.”

Lene Schulze continues: “With a joint Nordic push in Silicon Valley we will get a stronger brand. We can promise people that they will meet the best of the Nordics and not just the best from one country. We have on many occasions proven that this will increase the number and quality of people attracted to our events, which means we are able to involve very high caliber Silicon Valley executives, investors and other stakeholders.”

To find out more about the Nordic Innovation House and be updated on the latest events, check out their website here and follow them on Facebook and Twitter.

For Nordic startups looking to get involved with Nordic Innovation House, apply here. For any U.S. companies looking to connect with Nordic companies, please contact them here to arrange a visit.

Photos by: Mikkel Aaland


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