Startup + Corporate Collaboration = ?? On the Origin and Evolution of Highline Beta

Ben Yoskovitz, Founding Partner at Highline Beta and co-author of Lean Analytics in conversation with Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation

Inside Outside Innovation is the podcast that brings you the best and the brightest in the world of startups and innovation. The following excerpt is from the podcast episode featuring Ben Yoskovitz, Founding Partner at Highline Beta and co-author of Lean Analytics in conversation with Brian Ardinger, Inside Outside Innovation host. You can listen to the full episode here:

Brian Ardinger:

Why don’t we start with a little bit about your background history and how you got involved in innovation?

Ben Yoskovitz:

I went to McGill University in Montreal and started my first company in the tech space in 1996. Since then, I’ve founded a number of different companies. I’ve also run product at a few startups: GoInstant was a B2B technology company, and VarageSale was a B2C consumer marketplace company.

I ran one of the very first accelerator programs in Canada called Year One Labs with Alistair Croll and a couple of other partners. We invested in, and implemented Lean methodology with five startups. On the heels of that experience, Alistair and I wrote Lean Analytics with the intent to take our early Lean Startup theory and make it as practical as possible. In 2016, Marcus Daniels, Lauren Robinson and I decided to start Highline Beta.

Brian Ardinger:

Even though Highline Beta is three years old, it’s still a fairly new model. Tell us more.

Ben Yoskovitz:

We took our combined backgrounds running tech companies, investing in startups, and running accelerator programs for corporate clients, and looked at successful, and less successful startups. The key was noticing how things really started to take off for startups when they had a strong relationship with a big company.

We developed a hypothesis, that through working with big companies and unlocking opportunities beyond their core business, we can build better companies and startups.

We felt the hypothesis needed two components. The first is the service arm – working with big companies as our clients. The goal is to help them with a variety of things in the innovation space; from thinking outside of the business they’re in today, to identifying future growth engines for their business. The second component is a fund business – taking the opportunities that come out of our work with big companies to find startups they can partner with. If a startup doesn’t exist, we can build it from scratch using our co-creation model. With these two components in place, we’re effectively de-risking our investments through the work we do with corporate clients, and doubling down on investable opportunities that come out of the work.

Brian Ardinger:

Who are the customers you work with?

Ben Yoskovitz:

We work with companies that recognize they need to come up with the “next thing” that’s going to keep them growing for another 10, 20, even 50 years. We don’t assume we have all the good ideas. Instead, we look for signals from companies and their customers to indicate where opportunities exist. There are a lot of assets locked-up inside big companies; super smart and talented people, domain expertise, distribution, capital and customers – all things that startups want and need in order to grow. The programs we’re building connect companies in our network with startups that can build pilots as quickly as possible, so we can then validate the value creation, validate that the pilots are working, and see which ones will scale inside the company.

What are all the tools in your innovation toolbox and how can you start using all of them?”

Brian Ardinger:

Finally, if you were in charge of innovation for a large corporation today, what would you do?

Ben Yoskovitz:

I would be saying, “What are all the tools in our toolbox and how can we start using all of them?” If you can use the tools available to you, test them, see which ones work and iterate on them, then you have a chance of creating huge value over time.

Bonus: Ben Yoskovitz – Startup + Corporate Collaboration = ??? at IO Summit

How do startups and big companies work together?

How do startups and big companies work together? Is it even possible? How about in a repeatable and scalable way? And when big companies need to look beyond their core businesses and business models, what are the best ways of doing that? In this talk, Ben Yoskovitz answers all of these questions, sharing new approaches, real-world examples and things to look out for big companies and startups when working together, at IO Summit.

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