A growing number of enterprise companies are attempting open innovation or startup innovation, but few of them are tackling the concept with as much precision as Oracle’s Reggie Bradford, 3-time entrepreneur and Startup Ecosystem & Accelerator boss at the cloud software giant. “How do we help startups build better products and create capabilities?” he posited. “That’s job number 1.”
Doug Kehring, Chief of Staff at Oracle and Head of Corporate Development, sat down with Reggie at Startup Grind Global 2017 for a conversation about how they are bringing startup innovation to an enterprise.
Innovation in a Nutshell
Simply put, innovation is necessary because there is “tremendous change and upheaval all around us,” suggests Bradford. “Everybody is faced with this challenge: innovate or die.”
Oracle has a strong vision around the future of Cloud technology, and they believe startups are a huge part of making that vision a reality.
Kehring added, “The idea for us is to be out there on the leading edge of innovation.” He iterated that they work hard to create a sense of community and figure out how to leverage their assets for the benefit of startups in their global accelerator programs.
Some of those assets include access to space and connections, as well as to the Oracle Cloud. Their open innovation model is “Pay It Forward ” — Oracle takes no equity and sees itself as complementary to the startup ecosystem. “We think it’s a perfect time to harness and partner with the next generation of startups,” said Bradford.
Finding the Right Seeds to Grow
Innovation is at its most raw early in the life-cycle of a company. Reggie Bradford drove this home: “We catch a lot of the companies as they’re scaling up, but what we’re missing are the small and mid-size emerging companies. And that’s where all of this is really vital to the future.”
Their goal at Oracle is to find these young upstarts and provide the necessary resources and direction for them to succeed and, ultimately, to provide value for the rest of Oracle’s pipeline. “Being a founder can be a very lonely experience,” Bradford said. “All three of my startups, although commercially successful, were at one point on the precipice of almost failing.”
He went on: “The biggest challenges I faced as a founder were how to generate revenue and how to find customers.” At his last startup, Vitrue, Bradford was approached by Oracle and realized immediately that they valued opinions of thought-leaders from outside the company — and they could help him grow. “With 420,000 customers in 180 countries, I thought: ‘wow, I can really scale my business globally.'”
From Oracle’s perspective, relationships with companies like Vitrue represent an evolution in innovation strategy. “[After losing] several hundred million dollars, we woke up and said: we really shouldn’t be in the venture capital business,” said Doug Kehring.
Rather than offer direct capital to a portfolio of startups, Oracle began providing access to technical talent and mentorships in an effort help make startups successful. “That’s really where we spend our time now.”
No Customer Left Behind
The goal of innovation is to figure out how to remain profitable in the face of an evolving marketplace and new, agile competitors. Reggie Bradford and Oracle recognize this, and they have specific goals for partnerships and acquisitions. “We want to help companies that can build and scale globally.”
Kehring went on, saying “the reality is most companies have an ecosystem of things, and our goal is to create as rich an ecosystem as possible in order to help our joint customers be successful.”
Oracle’s 420,000 enterprise customers are on board with this strategy. “They want us to help them enable their futures and find the next best startups so we can create an ecosystem where startups can sell to our customers and we can deliver together,” said Bradford.
Startups have a responsibility in this global world of innovation, too: their products and services need to be built and deployed with a vision of the future in mind. “You need to run your business in a way that’s easily purchased and scaled,” Kehring said.
He used a recent startup partner, YellowDog, as an example. “Their product is performing, they’ve scaled into 500 customers around the globe, and together we’re going into some of the largest media companies who are Oracle customers around the world. That’s where we see the symbiotic relationship.”
Kehring finished the anecdote by re-affirming how this contributes to Oracle’s overall innovation strategy. “As Cloud technology came along and our ability to deliver it improved, we realized that we also needed to do business differently. As a result, we’ve been reinventing our business practices to enable us to deliver fast purchasing processes, fast deployment, fast everything in a way that’s efficient. And that allows us to scale down to the smallest of businesses and service their needs.”
In the Ecosystem We Trust
Oracle recognizes that a thriving startup ecosystem is crucial for this strategy to be successful. “There’s tremendous innovation in every sector,” said Bradford. “I think the next 5-to-10 years are going to be among the most exciting we’ve ever seen, and we know we can’t get there by ourselves. We’ve got to partner and create opportunities for startups to help lead the way and drive that innovation.”
The interconnected nature of technology is helping this ecosystem to grow. Bradford went on: “With globalization, you can create a startup anywhere — if you build a great product and focus on delivering value for customers, you can sell to the world.”
He lined that up with Oracle’s vision for innovation: “there’s a tremendous amount of technology being developed all over the world, and we go and find it wherever it is.”
Taking the Relationship to the Next Level
Innovation as a two-way street is ready for the next phase. Nimble startups are solving problems with technology at a rapid clip, and enterprise companies are searching for new ways to apply their capabilities to scale. “It’s always been a harmonious relationship between us and startups simply because scaling is really hard,” said Doug Kehring.
And the nature of these relationships is changing for the better. Collaboration is becoming more common, and both large and small companies are building their core offerings to be able to work together.
“As the cloud democratizes business, we’ve got to democratize our own offerings at Oracle,” concluded Bradford. “With the cloud, two people in a garage can use our technology to deliver and sell, and we’re tooling and instrumenting our capabilities to enable that.”
Read More: www.startupgrind.com