There’s been a lot of talk about innovation in the past few years and how companies can remain relevant in this era where new and modern technologies have emerged and changed people’s buying and usage habits. Companies are struggling to figure out how to counter companies that just a year or so ago wasn’t in existence — Hilton used to compete against Sheraton, Marriott, and other hoteliers, but now the industry is at a turning point, one where it must realize that the sharing economy, namely Airbnb has had a significant impact on their businesses.
And let’s not turn a blind eye to what Facebook, Twilio, Uber, Apple, and others have also done for their respective spaces. Companies are besides themselves and in turn are creating accelerators and incubators in the hopes of finding a way out of their rut. But are they working? According to a study from startup program 500 Startups, these endeavors have mixed results. The issue around innovation has been well-studied for years, and other reports have emerged.
“Technology no longer enables change, it incites it,” explained Gregarious Narain, a serial entrepreneur who most recently was the cofounder of Chute. “It is changing how and why we do work. Consumers have adapted and evolved and they are demanding technology at a similarly rapid pace — forcing every company to revisit both who they are and what they do. Companies designed for a pre-digital economy simply can’t be successful with today’s rapidly changing landscape and expectations — let alone address the challenges of tomorrow.”
But rather than running around in circles trying to figure out how their companies can combat the WhatsApps, Ubers, and Facebooks of the tech world, Narain believes his solution may be more rewarding. On Thursday he formally launched his latest startup called Before Alpha, a consultancy to help guide incumbent organizations rapidly iterate so they’re not twiddling their thumbs and having innovation programs grow stagnant.
Joining Narain is Sumeet Jain, a venture capitalist with LUMA Capital Partners. The duo are looking to change the paradigm of innovation in corporations, tackling a problem at its roots and helping business development, marketing, and executives figure out how to be hip, cool, and modern once again before just spraying and praying.
From artificial intelligence, augmented reality, food tech, sales tools, dashboards, enterprise platforms, and even automation, it can be a daunting task to understand what’s out there and to make sense of it. Companies have choices: They can make investments in startups with the eventual hope that if the founder is onto something, it could lead to an acquisition and consequentially absorbing the tech, or if it doesn’t go anywhere, only a “small” amount of money was wasted. Alternatively, companies could open up an incubator or accelerator and bear witness to tech around spaces they’re interested in, almost like they’re a nosey neighbor. But what if companies want to do something themselves? Where do they start?
Consultancies like Before Alpha could be beneficial to organizations that have been in a rut and seeing that their market share is slowly but surely being diminished. Having someone like Narain and Jain, two individuals that have been engrained in the tech scene for decades may bring fresh ideas into a company, helping those tasked with “innovating” to change their thinking, standing it on its head and reinvigorating a stale program so leadership is really thinking differently. It’s not about replacing those in research and development or even business development but rather reigniting the thought process and providing a new strategy around innovation which can fuel more creative and sustaining ideas for years to come.
And while service providers like Before Alpha may be a dime a dozen, it’s not as if Narain hasn’t done this before, and he’s stacked his company with experienced advisors, people that have been in the realm of corporate innovation a lot longer. The consultancy has enlisted the help of futurist, author, and analyst Brian Solis, and venture capitalist and serial advisor Balaji Gopinath.
Before Alpha counts among its clients McDonald’s, Salesforce, Nike, Bank of America, KIA, The Ritz-Carlton, Nikon, and Conde Nast.