Corporate Startup Lab Demo Day 2019

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending and keynoting Carnegie Mellon University’s Corporate Startup Lab Demo Day. My friend and mentor Sean Ammirati first shared the Corporate Startup Lab model with me in 2017 and I’ve been a fan since Day One. The idea is to bring together Fortune 500 companies with interdisciplinary teams of students to build internal startups solving problems and developing new business models.

This model is a bit different from traditional external innovation but in some ways, allows for more creativity. Teams are given goals or project scopes but have the flexibility to define solutions their own way. The Corporate Startup Lab model allows for the creation of startups which may only have one “customer”, the corporate partner, but can still unlock a massive amount of value. This year’s Demo Day featured an incredible array of company sponsors, including Alcoa, Bosch, Optum, Philips, and Verizon.

The perfect example of this model was demonstrated by MSA – The Safety Company, who created Safetyio, a wholly owned subsidiary but nonetheless, an internal startup with a different business model than MSA’s standard structure. I’m eager to see other companies follow MSA’s lead – there’s a ton of low hanging innovation fruit for companies willing to challenge their strongly held assumptions and develop new business models.

My keynote was about something I’ve written about extensively: building a world class external innovation system. While I don’t have a video of the talk, here’s an outline of the main points (art board done by the amazing Leah Silverman):

If you’re in an innovation role at a large company, working with CSL could be exactly what the doctor ordered. For those interested, please check out their website or connect directly with Sean Ammirati.