Better Innovation Culture in Corporations


The Connected Conference is a new small 3 day conference, focussed largely on Hardwear, IoT Devices, network protocols. This is a short write up summary of a conversation I had directly with Orange and listening to a fireside chat with the CEO of Alcatel Lucent. Mainly for my own recollection, but also for the benefit of others.


Conversation with Alexia Froudkine, Director Developer Marketing & Alliances

Showcasing the Orange Partner programme, Orange’s presence was largely showing the fact that they had invested some considerable time to make the hundreds of internal APIs more public.

We talked about the reality of the challenges Orange faced, and despite some posturing on the size of Orange (10 million Orange Cloud Users, 4 million of which are active), we got candidly to the real challenge - the slow changing mindset of large organisations to move towards an open api culture.

Orange obviously try to leverage the way they can support startups, through their customer network. What I believe this boils down to, is selecting certain products and emailing their customers to promote the product. The problem they have, is that they could bundle the apps into products, but they don’t have the same impact as the OS operators, like Google and Apple, or the companies like Samsung that add more layers onto the OS like they do with Android, to really bundle the app - it still requires the app to be downloaded.

Therefore I asked about the the typical conversion rates for these types of partnerships, but the honest answer was that whilst the story is there, it’s too early and there aren’t the metrics available. So, like most opportunities to work with large corporates to get a leg up with distribution and customer development, the reality is, don’t get sucked in by the promise - dig deeper.

One example that Alexia talked about, was that after working internally on the space of “families communications”, and numerous failed experiments, they found a French startup with some traction in the space. They worked with the startup, and eventually created a unique Orange instance of their app - a kind of Facebook for families - and under a slightly different (though not explicitly Orange branded) name, called FamilyPlace - worked the promotion of this app into their Orange Cloud service package.

Is this the way to go? Is this really a beneficial route for a startup? What are the implications?

Alcatel Lucent

Fireside chat between Michel Combes, CEO of Alcatel Lucent and Liam Boogar (MC).

Alcatel spends 2.3B Euros in R&D annually and employs 25,000 R&D people. Yet, they know they have a massive problem with managing the change, the speed and type of change, that is occurring due to the disruptive business models and technological advances made in the IoT space.

How does a corporation like Alcatel, typically approach changing the company and fixing the fact that they don’t really understand this new world.

Step 1 - Hire a digital manager, give no power, nothing changes
Step 2 - Travel to Silicon Valley, feel like close to innovation
Step 3 - Invest in some startups, but kid ourselves that we therefore are close to and think like startups.

It doesn’t work, it runs deeper. It’s a fundamental shift in the company’s DNA… A cultural takeover.

Michel talked about how they create internal startups - ring fenced company with reward mechanisms that are the same as startups in the real world. If they’re successful, they can get rich.

If they fail, they don’t get killed by the rest of the company. He showed an authentic appreciation of the need to deeply engage the cultural shift and not fall into the trap of a pure lip-service play.

Summed up quite candidly, Michel made a powerful closing statement:

Put everyone in a risk situation, to avoid falling asleep.