Intrapreneur: A term first coined by Gifford Pinchot in 1985 and further popularized by Steve Jobs in a Newsweek article in the same year. The term caught on, but it took some more years before intrapreneurship programs became mainstream, and organizations started to learn about the benefits of intrapreneurship.
While doing some research for our ebook, The Power of Innovation, we found one theme predominant.
Most successful products were a result of the persistence of intrapreneurs, who refused to give up on their ideas, even when the management had given up.
Furthermore, it gets difficult to innovate within the realms of an organization owing to various factors: lack of innovation culture, bureaucracy, and long process for approvals.
In fact, numerous companies fell on the path of failure because they failed to innovate and adapt to the changing market.
Owing to a deadbeat innovation culture, employees stop sharing ideas.
It begs the question about your action plan!
Well, good intrapreneurship programs would be the first step.
A plan to establish an environment where intrapreneurs can work on their ideas.
In our post today, we will share a few examples of organizations that came up with intrapreneurship programs and their resultant products.
1. UQBATE: The Intrapreneurship program at Deutsche Telekom
In 2011, Johannes Nuenning, the VP of Business Strategy at Deutsche Telekom, came up with the idea of UQBATE–an intrapreneurship program–to support employees’ innovation and intrapreneurial spirit. It was a platform for the company’s internal entrepreneurs to express their ideas.
UQBATE was a three-month-long accelerator program with different teams debated, pitched, and collaborated on ideas.
The teams took forward the validation and development phase, which comprised speaking to potential clients and testing theories. Johannes Nuenning promoted the program internally and externally and was responsible for its success.
Since the inception of UQBATE, 400 ideas have been tested with the participation of more than 600 employees.
Some of the success stories of this program include
- Zuqi, an online platform for special service providers
- MyComoda, a virtual wardrobe
- eParkomat, a car parking platform
As of 2018, more than ten companies were born as a result of this program.
“We don’t care where you come from. There is no limit regarding the ideas. It’s 3 months approach designed to support entrepreneurs and their product, which might well be an non-Telekom product. Because we learned that the vast majority of ideas reflect the ‘common knowledge’ of a 21st century Telecommunications Company anyway.”
– Johannes Nuenning
Related Read: Top Innovations You Must Start Harnessing Today
2. Inversation by SAP: A startup made possible by SAP’s Accelerator Program
In 2017, Hemant Rachh, a Bengaluru-based product specialist in SAP Labs India, along with three of his colleagues, developed an artificial intelligence-powered platform. This platform could transform all leads received by a company into sales efficiently.
Within a couple of months, two more teammates jumped on board to help grow the concept.
Convinced by the platform’s potential, the team chose to submit it at the annual SAP Labs India event Innovation and Venture Challenge (InnVent), which encouraged the employees to go beyond the box.
The most important thing to note is that Hemant was considering quitting SAP to pursue this project with a few members of his team.
However, since SAP fostered an idea-encouraging climate, which allowed their ideas to flourish, they opted not to leave the company.
Hemant and his team
“The program is exactly the same as going to a venture capital firm for funding your startup idea and we could do it while we had a corporate job.”
– Hemant Rachh
Hemant and his team won the internal program challenge and received a lot of encouragement and external assistance to move the concept forward. They continued their efforts to help bring their concept to fruition.
Eventually, Hemant and his team applied to sap.io, an internationally run intrapreneurship accelerator program managed by SAP itself.
Rachh’s team was one of the two teams out of 500 within SAP to get funded.
Later, in February 2019, Rachh and his team moved to San Francisco to focus full-time on their startup, which is now called Inversation by SAP.
“In today’s rapid pace of digital transformation, it is vital to stay relevant and competitive. As leaders, we need to nurture our employees in thinking innovatively and aid them in converting their ideas into marketable solutions.”
– Dilipkumar Khandelwal, Managing director of SAP labs
Related Read: Business Innovation: The What, Why, How, and Where
3. Crowdcraft: The Airbus Innovation Intrapreneurship programs
Mina Bastawros, while working as a mid-level employee at Airbus, had a vision. He wanted to bring new game-changing ideas into Airbus. His aim was, “To design the aircraft of the future with the people for the people.”
However, he realized that while developing new corporate innovation within an organization the size of Airbus, maintaining the opportunity only for internal people was not a viable option.
So, he suggested expanding the generation and deployment of ideas to innovators outside the organization.
This resulted in Crowdcraft, a crowdsourcing and crowd-staffing platform designed to find solutions to technical challenges. The platform connected problems to problem solvers, seeking to reduce work time and cost through more efficient ways for buyers to access goods and services. The promising ideas received direct support from the top executives of Airbus.
Crowdcraft was a massive success for the company, and it achieved 61% cost savings and 59% time savings compared to traditional new product development methods.
The initiative worked well for Mina too. He was appointed as a Strategic Marketing Director at Airbus Corporate Jets and later promoted to the Vice President of Creative & Digital Marketing.
Related Read: How to build an innovation strategy?
4. BOXLAB: A Success story from Chemovator, the corporate incubator at BASF
How do you encourage innovation in a company that has 110,000 employees worldwide?
With such a huge workforce, tackling innovation can get complex. You need a protected space where employees can share their ideas and take them right to implementation.
BASF gave its employees this very protected space by starting its own corporate incubator. This incubator, Chemovator, started in 2018 to bring their disruptive ideas to life.
“There are many resourceful minds among BASF employees who have promising innovative business ideas. We support these colleagues in introducing their new products, digital business models or comprehensive complete solutions to the market quickly and efficiently.”
– Markus Bold, Head of Chemovator
Chemovator supports its internal intrapreneurs who want to develop new ideas, starting from ideation all the way to successful commercialization. The program takes two years to complete and supports up to 12 venture teams at a time.
In April 2021, Chemovator announced its first successful corporate spin-out, BOXLAB Services GmbH. The idea of BOXLAB features an app that helps highly regulated industries replace damaged packaging within 24 hours. It solves supply chain issues to decrease delays in the delivery process.
BOXLAB has accrued a customer base of over 70 warehouses in ten countries. BASF gained a minority share in BOXLAB and improved its label and packaging processes.
“Our aim is to make logistics processes more efficient and sustainable and to avoid the disposal of undamaged products due to damaged outer packaging.”
– Mischa Feig
The other companies to spin out of Chemovator include secureB2B, recobo, 1000 Satellites, faCellitate, and BANY.
5. bCheck: The startup that emerged from the Luminus innovation incubator
EDF Luminus, a top player in the energy sector, recognized the need to stimulate internal intrapreneurship programs or innovation programs.
With that thought, they established their internal innovation incubator #next.
Participants in the #next program were removed from their daily work environment and given a startup-like ecosystem. They were encouraged to work on their ideas for three months.
As a part of the program, EDF did a tie-up with Start it @KBC, Belgium’s largest startup network. Along with access to experts and a personal mentor, the environment was designed to stimulate internal innovation.
“We have found that the best and most innovative ideas often come from our own employees. And to stimulate and nurture those ideas, we have developed our own internal innovation programme: #next. Participants in the #next programme are deliberately removed from their daily work environment. So they can fully immerse themselves in the start-up culture at Start it @KBC. And, on their return, boost innovation and entrepreneurship within our own corporate culture.”
– Grégoire Dallemagne, CEO of EDF Luminus.
Seppe de Sever and his colleagues
Seppe de Sever and his colleague were the first to join the corporate venture project by EDF Luminus.
They together developed bCheck, a device that provides immediate energy efficiency improvements on electricity installments like boilers and heat pumps. The device uses IoT technology and artificial intelligence to monitor their operation and efficiency.
The collected data can be interpreted using AI. And, the system will be able to detect if an installation is going to break down. It enables you to solve problems before they occur.
And, when interviewed, here’s what Seppe has to say about the whole experience.
“They gave us a laptop, they gave us a credit card with a few thousand euros on it. And they just said: okay, test it, validate the idea, and go for it! We see everybody is learning: we are learning, EDF Luminus is learning, on how to do it quicker and better.”
– Seppe de Sever
These were some of the amazing products that were a result of intrapreneurship programs. So, when the C-suite, especially the CIOs, considering their role in innovation, encourage a culture of innovation, the results are amazing.
Here’s a knowledge nugget section to show you employee innovation wonders: Employees winning at work.