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CONTENTS
Why We Created The Bridge
So You Want to Build a Bridge
Stage 1 | Getting Ready to Build a Bridge
Stage 2 | Casting the Show
Stage 3 | Bringing the Bridge to Life
Stage 4 | Sponsor Connect Day: Speed-dating for Innovation
Stage 5 | Celebrating Success: The Showcase Event
Moving Forward
1
9
11
18
23
27
31
33
For big companies,
significant
innovation can
be elusive.
“
”
WHYWE
CREATED
THEBRIDGE
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 2
Because
startups often
begin by building a
business around a core
of significant innovation,
they seemed the logical
place to begin looking
for answers
For big companies, significant innova-
tion can be elusive. Often, large enter-
prise innovation is incremental, focus-
ing narrowly on particular products or
smaller technology initiatives. Iden-
tifying and adopting game-changing
ideas is much harder.
In 2010, the Bridge at Coca-Cola was
created based on a strategic mandate
from President and Chief Executive
Officer Muhtar Kent and championed
by former Coca-Cola CIO Ed Steinike,
that challenged the organization to
become more innovative. We need-
ed to determine how we might best
bring in technology across our com-
pany that could open up new pos-
sibilities and fuel big innovations at
a business level, affecting the ways
we do things, make decisions, work
together, and more.
We began by reviewing and transforming a number of internal
processes around innovation. But, while necessary, this was
not sufficient. We soon realized that we needed to look
beyond our own organization, reaching out to identify
and embrace new technologies and services. But what
was the best way to do this?
Because startups often begin by building a business
around a core of significant innovation, they seemed the
logical place to begin looking for answers. To tap into this
well, however, we knew we had to develop relationships with
the startup community that would be mutually beneficial. We needed
to connect in a way that helped them grow while also helping us become more
fundamentally innovative.
Our approach, launched in 2014, was to develop a program for working with a
local community of startups called “The Bridge,” which focused on finding prom-
ising new ideas and helping startups successfully commercialize them. Aptly
named, the program has helped connect Coca-Cola with a robust startup com-
munity – and has yielded many surprising benefits to both sides. The program
truly works.
It works so well, in fact, that now we want to share what we’ve learned. We want
to provide you with both the motivation and the specific knowledge you need to
start a similar program. That’s why we wrote this ebook.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 3
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
We needed
to tap into the
new thinking, risk-
embracing philosophies,
and boundless optimism
and energy of
startups
THE BACKSTORY OF THE BRIDGE
The Bridge at Coca-Cola was created
based on a CEO-led strategic mandate
that challenged the organization to be-
come more innovative.
To do this, we took a hard look at our
current approach to innovation, looking
for strengths as well as issues. While
our current approach wasn’t really bro-
ken, it also wasn’t optimal.
One issue quickly emerged:
we needed to overcome
our “large enterprise risk
aversion” and instead learn to
embrace risk.
We also had to make it easier to inno-
vate. In the past, many people had tried
to bring new ideas to life, but all too
often their efforts were met with long
delays and ballooning costs. Over time,
risk aversion, frustration, and organi-
zational inertia led to fewer and fewer
attempts to disrupt the status quo.
To fix this, we decided we needed to augment our existing process with a sup-
plementary approach that could allow us to tap into the new thinking, risk-em-
bracing philosophies, and boundless optimism and energy of
startups. But how? And where?
We began by doing a deep dive to understand the
opportunities and needs of a startup community. We
decided to focus on one of the most vibrant, crea-
tive, and extensive tech communities in the world, Tel
Aviv. There, in early 2014, we sat down with a group
of investors and serial entrepreneurs and asked them
what the startups needed. An incubator? No, they really
didn’t need another one. An accelerator? Same situation.
“What we really need,” they said, “is a bridge to putting our technology to work
in real-world business situations.”
And thus the Bridge program was born, focused on bringing tangible value to
our business units, while also delivering an adrenaline shot into our entire com-
pany by changing and accelerating the way innovation occurs. Just as impor-
tant, the Bridge builds connections and relationships that innovators truly need,
strengthening startups and creating goodwill in the startup community.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 4
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
WHY YOU MAY WANT A BRIDGE PROGRAM TOO
Tap into the energy and creativity
of innovators and drive real
business improvement
Encourage a nimble
entrepreneurial mindset
across your organization
Create a defined and repeatable
process to keep innovation flowing
Use your company’s knowledge
and assets to help fledgling
companies succeed
Develop sustained relationships
with the startup community and
enhance your brand and reputation
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 5
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
WHAT’S IN A BRIDGE?
BUILD A BRIDGE FROM THE
ENTERPRISE TO INNOVATION
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 6
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
BRIDGE PROGRAM ECOSYSTEM
BUSINESS UNITS
WITH SPONSORS
STARTUPS
(with and without proof of concept)
BUSINESS
MANAGERS
INNOVATION THEME 1
INNOVATION THEME 3
INNOVATION
THEME 2
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 7
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
BENEFITS OF CREATING A BRIDGE
Just like a physical bridge brings benefits to those who live on either side of it, a Bridge
program brings benefits to both enterprises and startups.
FOR ENTERPRISES
A Bridge program brings an entrepreneurial
spark of innovation into your company with
minimal risk and high impact. You do this
through building a community of entrepre-
neurialism.
With a Bridge program, you expand your
horizons in terms of the products and servic-
es startups provide that may be able to help
your business, in return for actively helping
the startups grow and develop. And you do
this without forcing a startup to sacrifice eq-
uity or requiring your company to invest in an
unproven business. It’s a virtuous circle that
benefits all participants.
A Bridge program broadens innovation, mov-
ing beyond established practices for internal
innovation and bringing in ideas from the
outside world, focused on core business chal-
lenges in a way that dramatically increases
the probability of finding actionable projects.
FOR STARTUPS
The program provides commercialization training and engagement
opportunities.
There are a number of different aspects to commercialization. For one
thing, startups receive training on marketing, branding, positioning,
audience identification, pitching, and sales and negotiation training as
part of the program. Most startups have no way to learn these things
otherwise, and large companies typically excel at them. The sponsoring
company also brings large marketing departments and reach to the
training program. This improves startups’ branding as well. Moreover, in
our program, startups often have a bona fide commercialization oppor-
tunity because they become “approved vendors” from Day One, avoid-
ing the typical cumbersome approval process.
Engagement is another major benefit. For example, our program lets
startups interact with experts, VCs, partners, and large companies in
a sheltered environment where they receive help and support without
being required to give up any equity. Major events in the Bridge pro-
gram provide prime networking opportunities for startups to refine
their marketing and messaging and understand how their ideas could
become viable products. They can also rapidly and significantly expand
their existing networks. Their selection for the Bridge program also
enhances their credibility.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 8
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
GIVING AND GETTING THROUGH A BRIDGE
GIVE GET
STARTUPS
Semi-exclusive trial of their
products, signing an agree-
ment not to sell to speci-
fied competitors during the
program
Mentoring and training
while they continue to de-
velop their product
Active participation in the
program and all events
Real-world experience in
working with a successful
business
Experience working direct-
ly with the business unit
that sponsors them
Access to their technology
Training on marketing and
commercialization
Knowledge and enthusiasm
Guidance for commercializ-
ing their product
Relationships with you and
with select customers and
partners
Lessons learned that will
serve them as they sell to a
broader customer base
GIVE GET
ENTERPRISES
Help to startups
Funding for the program
Semi-exclusive access to
startup technology for the
7 months of the program
Business stakeholders
serve as sponsors for start-
ups
An infusion of startup ener-
gy, knowledge and enthu-
siasm
Respect and genuine help Goodwill for your brand
Expertise and training
Insight into the “new new”
thing
Time and energy
Relationships with startups
and the startup community
Many intangible, ongoing
benefits that compound
with each cycle of the
Bridge
We’re going to
cut to the chase,
sharing the specific
approaches and
tactics that have
worked for us so
you can hopefully
create a successful
Bridge program of
your own
“
”
SOYOU
WANT TO
BUILD A
BRIDGE
WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 10 10
SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A BRIDGE
Launch the program with a kickoff that prioritizes
community and relationship building
Provide support for the startups, such as training, ac-
cess to industry experts and connect them to relevant
employees for potential pilot opportunities
Celebrate startup achievements and allow them to
connect with people or companies that could help
further commercialize their ideas
Provide ongoing support to the startups as they con-
tinue to grow
We could write a whole book on the many benefits that we’ve seen at Coca-Cola from working
with startups, and maybe someday we will. But this is an ebook, and we’re going to cut to the
chase, sharing the specific approaches and tactics that have worked for us so you can hopefully
create a successful Bridge program of your own. Are you ready? Let’s dive in.
Get executive buy-in
Streamline processes for getting started
Get business stakeholders from across the company
to invest
Choose core themes that solve problems across those
business areas
Hire a management lead and an operations lead with
roots in the startup community
Find and select startups whose solutions address the
core themes
1 7
2
8
3
94
10
5
6
In working with
startups, we had
to streamline a few
things because
our conventional
processes, which
make perfect sense
for our ongoing
business activities,
do not work for
startups
“
”
STAGE1
GETTING
READY TO
BUILD A
BRIDGE
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 12
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
GET A TOP LEADER ON YOUR SIDE
Working with startups is going to shake things up. (Remember:
that’s actually your goal.) When shakeups and shakeouts happen,
you’re going to want executive sponsorship in place to support
the changes and help move things forward rapidly. It could be the
CMO, CIO, a head of a large Business Unit, the Chief Digital Officer,
or even the CEO – but the point is, you’re going to want a commit-
ted and respected champion to put some wind at your back.
CREATE A STARTUP SPEEDWAY
In working with startups, we had to streamline a few things be-
cause our conventional processes, which make perfect sense for
our ongoing business activities, do not work for startups.
For example, our existing vendor agreement is complex and
dozens of pages long. We felt it could place an undue burden
on most startups, making it difficult, for example, to fast track a
Proof of Concept (POC). So we created a much simplified evalu-
ation agreement, with the caveat that if our relationship with the
startup went beyond a POC, the startup would then sign a tradi-
tional vendor agreement.
Similarly, we needed a way
to quickly roll out a POC
from an IT perspective. We
needed an agreement with
IT that would allow us to set
up something really experi-
mental, something that might
not even work at scale, and let end
users get their hands on it. Traditionally, IT doesn’t let
end users touch things unless they’re fully vetted and
tested out, but we got them to agree to an exception
for these types of projects. However, we set it up so
that, if the POC was successful and a given technology
more widely rolled out, IT would then have the oppor-
tunity to follow its normal vetting and testing process.
These two changes were critical to success. When
possible, startups have to be able to run a POC di-
rectly with end users in a controlled live environment.
If we hadn’t changed our processes to make them
startup-friendly, we would have hamstrung our ability
to work with startups. We couldn’t have adhered to
the aggressive seven-month timeline for the Bridge.
Worse, startups might view our company not as help-
ful mentors but as obstructive bureaucrats.
Startups have to be
able to run a Proof of
Concept directly with
end users in a controlled
live environment
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 13
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
IDENTIFY YOUR ALLIES AND GET
DIVERSIFIED FUNDING
A Bridge program is a cross-functional business initiative.
You’ll need stakeholders from across the organization who
are willing to invest their money in the program and their time
in mentoring startups. In exchange, they’ll have input into the
types of startups that are selected. These stakeholders will
ultimately become sponsors for individual startups later on in
the process.
In order to be successful, you’ll need funding. The goal is not
just to fund one cycle of the Bridge, but to secure an ongo-
ing commitment to the program based on results.
Meet with people across the organization to cultivate sup-
port and then get small contributions from as many business
areas as possible. Important: set the contribution level low
enough to be a discretionary individual executive payment,
while high enough to fulfill the needs of the program when
pooled with all other contributions. The aim is to make en-
gagement and ownership easy and automatic for the busi-
ness area executive.
Having support from multiple business areas
protects total project funding, ensuring that if
priorities of a single individual or department
change, the Bridge program doesn’t disappear.
ASSEMBLE AN “INSIDE-OUTSIDE”
MANAGEMENT TEAM
A Bridge program
should be managed
by a blended team, one
with key players from
inside and outside the
sponsoring company
A Bridge program should be man-
aged by a blended team, one with
key players from both inside the
sponsoring company and from
outside, specifically individuals
with deep roots in the startup
community. In fact, we strongly
recommend that the two key full-
time roles on the team, the Man-
agement Lead and the Operations
Lead, come from outside the organiza-
tion and are known and respected within the local startup
community.
This “inside-outside” management approach will deliver:
ii Stronger interest in the project and greater trust
among the startup community
ii Faster actions and fewer bureaucratic stumbling blocks
ii Clear perception of independence from the enterprise;
this is not just “another department” or “part of IT”
Ensuring independence is so important that we recom-
mend that the management team considering forming its
own LLC/LTD.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 14
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
We’ve mentioned two critical roles that we feel should be filled by outsid-
ers, the Management Lead and the Operations Lead. But what does each of
these individuals do?
The Management Lead is responsible for sponsor
engagement, referral network management, PR and
marketing duties, and financial control of the entire
program. He or she will be the lead connector of the
program – linking startups with sponsors, connecting
with VCs who can recommend worthy startups to the
program, and cultivating relationships that can help
the startups grow. Clearly, this person needs to have
a strong network throughout the startup ecosystem.
The Operations Lead is responsible for startup en-
gagement, scheduling training, POC pilot follow-ups,
event management, and budget management. This
person builds and maintains the referral network. He
or she brings in speakers for day-long meetings (we
call them “Inspire Days”) that provide attendees with
expert perspectives and a chance to engage as a
community. The Operations Lead also has the respon-
sibility of running the day-to-day operations within
the workspace itself. This person is like a PR event
team and project manager in one.
SET UP AN ADVISORY
COMMITTEE
In our model, the management team re-
ports to an Advisory Committee made up
of the business areas that have financially
contributed to the program. This commit-
tee can include department heads within
the business or other business area de-
signees. It should meet at least monthly
and is chaired by the Management Lead.
The committee’s responsibilities
include providing oversight of
budgeting, marketing, program
themes, and training.
They’ll also have a significant amount of
input and control over which startups and
projects get selected, and they’ll help co-
ordinate meetings between startups and
sponsors.
Management Lead
Operations Lead
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 15
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
CHOOSE CORE THEMES
They should be broadly focused, not narrow solutions. You’re trying to avoid
having startups focus on a need that’s unique to your company; after all, serving
a niche market of one can kill startups. If you’re looking for a custom solution to a
problem your company (and only your company) has, you should hire a consult-
ant to solve that problem.
In addition, Core Themes should not be tied to specific technologies. For exam-
ple, virtual reality is a technology, not a solution to a business problem. Virtual
reality could be a way that a solution is offered, but it’s not directly a solution to a
business problem.
To give you a sense of a good way to define Core Themes, here are the five that
we developed for The Bridge in Tel Aviv:
Consumer
Engagement
Consumer
Retail
Supply
Chain
Marketing
Innovation
Health 
Wellness
One of the most important things
that the Advisory Committee does is
to select what we call “Core Themes”
– that is, broad high-level business
challenges requiring real innovation
to solve. These Core Themes serve as
guides for determining which startups
should participate in the program.
Only startups whose solutions ad-
dress one or more of these themes
should be considered.
Core themes are driven by
the needs of the business,
and highlight that you are
seeking business solutions to
business problems.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 16
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
GET THE WORKSPACE READY
The Bridge emphasizes community and relationships; it’s
not a competition. And it therefore needs a shared work-
space that allows startups to interact and build a strong
sense of community and “working together.” It can also
serve as a focal point for executives who want to meet the
startups; you can announce that a certain person or group
will be in the workspace on a given day for startups who
are interested in meeting with that person or group.
This space needs to be available for the duration of the
program, and should include offices for the management
team, meeting/training space, facilities for casual interac-
tions, and – for some early stage startups – even regular
office space. The startups will meet there weekly with the
Management Lead, and will be encouraged to come to the
workspace for training and networking.
To keep this program separate and
independent, we strongly suggest that the
workspace not be located on the corporate
campus.
You’ll also have to
be prepared to offer
customized training
that fits the needs of
individual startups
PUT TRAINING IN PLACE
Training is crucial in helping start-
ups succeed. The Management and
Operations Leads work together
with the Advisory Committee to
develop and offer training.
Marketing, sales and negotiating
skills are typically core training mod-
ules that provide significant benefit to
most startups. However, you’ll also have
to be prepared to offer customized training
that fits the needs of individual startups to ensure each
one gets the help it needs to accelerate its route to mar-
ket. In our experience, for example, some startups had a
keen interest in understanding privacy laws. Others wanted
to understand at a granular level how our logistics system
operates. We also enhanced the program by inviting our
internal experts who came to Tel Aviv to share their knowl-
edge at the workspace.
It is the Management Lead’s job to talk to the startups, find
out about each one’s specific needs and determine how
they can be met. The Operations Lead ensures that training
opportunities are well publicized.
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 17
STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
This form of tactical, personalized, relationship-based training
helps to differentiate the Bridge program from commercially run
incubators, so it’s important to spend some time on getting it right.
The illustration below shows our training schedule – but it’s possible that yours will be a
bit different, driven by the type of business problems and startups in your program.
ii Understanding Your
Customer
ii Customer Interviews
ii Developing Brand
Loglines
MONTH 1
ii Developing Brand
Loglines
ii How Our Business
Works
MONTH 2
ii Retail, Supply
Chain, Consumer
Engagement,
Marketing
Innovation, Health 
Wellness Strategies
 Panel Discussion
MONTH 3
ii How to Negotiate
ii How to Network
Effectively
MONTH 4
ii Define Themes
ii Activate Referral
Network
ii Application Process
ii Interviews
MONTH 0
ii Piloting for Success
ii How to Pivot -
Lessons Learned
from Successful
Startups
MONTH 5
ii How to Scale Your
Business
ii How to De-Tech Your
Language
MONTH 6
ii Developing
Presentations for the
Bridge Event
ii Rehearsals
MONTH 7
Now that you
have everything
in place, it’s time
to find startups
to apply to your
program
“
”
STAGE2
CASTING
THESHOW
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 19
STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW
Now that you have everything in place,
it’s time to find startups to apply to
your program.
Our method of handling this – and
one that we recommend – was to rely
on the Management Lead, who used
a strong referral network to help find
startups for the program. Rather than
advertising publicly, our Management
Lead spoke with VCs, angel investors,
serial entrepreneurs, and incubator and
accelerator owners, asking them to rec-
ommend startups for the program.
This approach provided many benefits.
For one thing, it lowered the friction
in attracting quality startups to the
program.
Moreover, we think we built a large and high-quality pool:
the recommenders acted as a “pre-filter,” identifying
candidates that they felt best met the needs of the
program.
How many referrals are you looking for? About 500,
from which you’ll probably get about 100 applica-
tions. Ultimately you’ll select 10 to 12 startups, with the
expectation that on average, only one of those will result
in an agreement to implement the startup’s technology.
THE STARTUP SELECTION PROCESS
FINDING STARTUPS THROUGH YOUR REFERRAL NETWORK
How many referrals
are you looking for?
About 500, from which
you’ll probably get about
100 applications.
Activate Apply Filter Select Success
500 100 50 10 1
Activate Referral
Network to
recommend 500+
potential startups
Target 100 +
applications and
conduct initial
online reviews
Filter to 50+
potentials and
conduct physical
interview sessions
Align on the final
10 and initiate the
program
Target one
successful
agreement out
of the 10
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 20
STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW
TAKING APPLICATIONS
Because of the pre-screening process, the appli-
cation should be succinct. Ask no more than 15 to
20 vital questions that get to the heart of what
the startup does and why it might be a fit for the
Bridge program. You might include questions
such as:
ii What is your revenue model?
ii What core theme does your work align to?
ii Why are you interested in the Bridge? Who is
your customer?
ii What problem does your technology address?
As you’re crafting questions, consider the types of
questions you’ll need to answer in order to select
the candidate, such as:
ii How innovative do you think the solution is?
ii How relevant is it to your business area?
ii What opportunity do you think there is for first
mover advantage?
QUALIFYING STARTUPS
The criteria for selecting startups for the
Bridge program identifies a technology the
startup can build a business around, not
just a product. The aim of the program is to
bring value to startups, to train them and
give them guidance. If a mature company
applies, it’s likely they don’t need the Bridge
but are instead looking for a sales lead. In that
case they should not be considered for the pro-
gram (though you may decide to put them in touch with the relevant
area of the your business).
It’s important not to mix apples and oranges, or, in this case, early
stage or growth companies with mature companies. Our reason for
this is simple: community building. You want startups to bond be-
cause they are sharing the same experiences and challenges. What’s
more, a large part of the success of the program is predicated on
the buy-in of participants. If you let in mature companies who, for
example, skip the training, others may think they don’t need it either,
and this can have a very negative impact on your overall communi-
ty-building efforts.
At the other end of the spectrum, you want to ensure that startups
are going to be able to succeed in speaking with the network. Even if
they have a great idea, a company that can’t sell itself or translate its
technology to the needs of business stakeholders will not be a good
fit for the program.
It’s important not
to mix apples and
oranges, or, in this case,
early stage or growth
companies with mature
companies
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 21
STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW
Ideally, about 40% of
qualifying startups should
be early stage companies
and 60% should be growth
companies.
Typically, our early stage startups
have been operating less than a year
and may have just a single employee.
They will typically value the use of the
office space and will only have pre-
seed funding. Growth companies will
be a little bit larger and have a prod-
uct in the alpha or beta development
phase. They will often have angel or
seed investment and their own space.
The startups selected should demon-
strate an innovative solution, industry
relevance, and first-to-market po-
tential. (That’s another reason why
established players don’t make sense
for the program.)
SELECTING STARTUPS
Every business unit that invested in the program should
provide someone to serve on the Selection Committee.
This committee is responsible for scoring applications
from potential startups against relevant core themes.
In our process, our Selection Committee members gave
applicants a 1-5 rating for each question on the applica-
tion and calculated an average score. Selection Commit-
tee members then discussed the highest-ranked applications
and decided who should advance to the interview stage. (At this
stage, the committee also assessed if there were enough applicants for a particu-
lar theme, and, if not, were prepared to return to the referral network to find more
applicants for that theme.)
This process yields 50 to 75 companies, which you should bring in for 30-minute
in-person interviews that include the Management Lead, business representatives,
and at least one VC/angel investor. You also need technology experts to make
sure the startup’s ideas are viable. Interviews are time-consuming, but help give
you a much better feel for the company and its products. They also help to build
buy-in from all participants.
After 4 to 5 days of interviews, the Selection Committee narrows it applicants
down to the top 20 candidates based on scores and then selects 10 to 12 startups
that they feel can collectively address the broad core themes. A caveat: try not
to select two startups that directly compete with one another – this could under-
mine relationship-building efforts.
Try not to select two
startups that directly
compete with one
another
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 22
STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW
ONBOARDING STARTUPS
Startups that are selected sign a participant agreement
that includes a non-compete with a limited number of key
competitors for the duration of the program, a mutual NDA
lasting five years, and an agreement that the startup owns
its own IP.
The non-compete is quite limited and
carefully designed not to hinder the startup.
Rather, it says that while the startup is in the program, a
few key competitors are off limits. This provides “breathing
space” for the sponsor organization to engage freely with
the startup, while also adding a certain pressure to drive
forward quickly during the program.
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“
”
STAGE3
BRINGING
THEBRIDGE
TOLIFE
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 24
STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE
The Bridge is a wrap-around program. It is designed help the startup in any way possible
to move its product forward while at the same time providing commercialization training.
MONTH 1MONTH 0 MONTH 2 MONTH 3 MONTH 4 MONTH 5 MONTH 6 MONTH 7
Start TrainingLaunch Event Showcase Event
THE TIMELINE FOR THE BRIDGE
Sponsor Day
(Partner Premises)
An opening
session of tactical
training and access
to decision-makers
Pre-Program
(60-90 Days)
Define themes,
activate referral
network, execute
application
process and
interviews
Development
(Bridge Workspace)
Work on your
solution in a shared
workspace
Bridge Showcase
(Bridge Location)
A public event
held at the Bridge
location
Pilot
(Upon Request)
An opportunity to
pilot your solution
License
(Upon Request)
The chance to license
your product
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 25
STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE
WELCOME TO THE BRIDGE
On the first day of the Bridge program, the
startups come together for initial corporate
orientation and socializing. For Coca-Cola this is
conducted via a field trip to a bottler that starts
off their orientation to learning about Coca-Cola
as business.
In order for the startups to
successfully work with the business
stakeholders who sponsor them,
they need to understand the
language that we speak.
For example, our definition of a customer is not
a consumer having a Coke, but the retail chain
that buys our products. In order to have effec-
tive conversations with stakeholders, startups
not only need training in marketing, but training
in business-speak.
The commercialization training program starts
right away. In addition to the training modules
outlined earlier, we bring in our marketing and
branding lead who listens to each startup as
they describe their service. She reviews their
decks and makes some initial recommendations.
ENGAGEMENT IS CRITICAL
Engagement with startups should be continual and frequent and led
by the management team. There are five key components that startups
should get out of this engagement. Startups should feel they have a
support network and are being heard at all stages.
SPONSOR CONNECT DAY
CONNECT
Regular 1-on-1 meetings with the Operations Lead to discuss
training, opportunities, challenges, feedback on how the startups
have done in meetings, and feedback on the program.
SOCIALIZE
Weekly, get-togethers for participants to build community.
INSPIRE
Biweekly meetings with content experts who can provide the
startups with knowledge and training they wouldn’t get otherwise.
MEET
Business stakeholders stop by the workspace to meet participants.
INFORM  SUPPORT
Shared information is put together and made available to all by
the Operations Lead.
SHOWCASE EVENT
1
2
3
4
5
6
7
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 26
STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE
THE LAUNCH EVENT
The Launch Event is a party where we
officially welcome the startups. It’s a
social getting-to-know-you event, not
a place for pitches. It’s about building
relationships and community.
The event is an
announcement to the referral
network and community
that the program has been
activated.
To avoid pitches, there are no formal
speeches – startups are free to mingle
with others in an informal context.
The management team leads and
plans the event.
Lorem ipsum dolor
“
”
STAGE4
SPONSOR
CONNECT
DAY
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 28
STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY:
SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION
Sponsor Connect Day is a pivotal point in the process.
Startups meet with executives in a series of 20-minute
sessions with the hopes of getting a follow-up meeting – and
ultimately a sponsor that they will work with closely.
So, for example, if a sponsor decides
not to proceed with the startup, they
should look to provide general guid-
ance that could help the startup, rath-
er than simply dropping them as one
would a normal vendor.
It’s important to remember that
startups are your brand ambassadors
in the startup community. Because
executives looking to become poten-
tial sponsors are used to working with
vendors, this takes some adjustment
on both sides.
PREPARING FOR SPONSOR CONNECT DAY
But before Sponsor Connect Day, there’s work to do to set expectations on both
sides of the aisle.
Preparing the startups is critical. During the Sponsor Connect Day meetings,
startups might be tempted to pitch hard – but that’s not the point. Instead, they
need to be counseled to take the time to listen and ask questions, finding out
as much as possible about the businessperson’s challenges before talking about
how their startup’s service could help. If they listen first, they’ll learn a great deal
and be better positioned to have an effective follow-up meeting where they can
go into their service in more detail.
Preparing the executives is just as important. Potential sponsors have to under-
stand that startup folks are often rough around the edges, so they shouldn’t ex-
pect a fully polished presentation. More importantly, they must realize that start-
ups are not vendors. The relationship is collaborative and more like mentoring
than like a client-vendor relationship.
It’s important
to remember that
startups are your brand
ambassadors in the
startup community
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 29
STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY: SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION
THE STRUCTURE OF
SPONSOR CONNECT DAY
The structure of Sponsor Connect Day is straightforward.
A senior executive opens the day, each executive is then
assigned a room, and startups rotate through.
Business stakeholders are asked to give their feedback on
the startups they meet. Simple Google Forms can be used
to collect this feedback.
The day allows interest to be sparked on
both sides – the executives and the startups.
Ideally, a potential sponsor leaves saying, I’m
interested; let’s go try this. It’s an opportunity
for the startup to meet executives that have
business challenges that their solution could
potentially address.
While the day is supportive, the Bridge program doesn’t
babysit startups. If a startup cannot sell itself, the program
won’t step in to do it for them. The startups should view the
day as a fact-finding mission. They’re testing out their ideas.
By the end of the day, they have a better understanding of
market needs and who they might partner with.
FOLLOW-UP: CONNECTING
WITH SPONSORS
The success of Sponsor Connect
Day is measured by the follow-up
done afterwards. The goal of the
follow-up is to continue the en-
gagement of those who attended
so that they stay interested and
continue to buy into the program.
Thank you notes should be sent, and
all volunteers should be thanked.
Follow-up meetings are arranged by the Management Lead,
as necessary, based on the opportunities identified by
startups and executives. Executives’’ feedback on ideas and
pitches is provided to startups.
The success of
Sponsor Connect
Day is measured by
the follow-up done
afterwards
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 30
STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY: SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION
DEVELOPMENT AND WORKING TOWARD A POC
During the follow-up period, all of the startups connect with their sponsor(s). They
work with sponsor executives to try to get to the point where there’s an opportunity
for a POC or a pilot of the startup’s service. (In the meantime, they are going through
the training program and improving the way they market and sell).
Even though development is streamlined, there is often time for a
POC or a pilot to generate results that the startup can highlight at
the Showcase Event at the end of the program.
Even if the sponsor can’t directly use a startup’s service, the sponsor will help guide
the startup with their expertise and connect them with the resources that they need to
drive their product forward.
Even if the sponsor
can’t directly use a
startup’s service, the
sponsor will help guide
the startup with their
expertise
Lorem ipsum dolor
“
”
STAGE5
THE
SHOWCASE
EVENT
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 32
STAGE 5 | CELEBRATING SUCCESS:
THE SHOWCASE EVENT
The final wrap-up of the program is the Showcase Event,
the most public part of the program. Invitees should include
all sponsors, VCs, investors, local government officials, busi-
ness partners, customers, and the press.
The event should focus on all the positives
that the startups can bring to the market and
celebrate all that they have accomplished
during the Bridge program.
Each startup should be introduced by someone from the
business that has either engaged directly with the startup
or is supportive of them, providing a brief overview of the
startup. The startup then gives a short (8-10 minute) pres-
entation about their ideas.
The goal of the showcase event is to
introduce the startups to the wider
world and allow them to describe
the business case for their work.
They do this in front of a deliber-
ately broad audience.
The audience is thus able to look
at these startups and decide whether
they would fit a need in their market, or a
market or company of someone they know. It’s a rapid way
to expand the potential reach of the startups across many
different audiences.
In the case of the Coca-Cola Bridge program, the event
occurs in front of employees, bottlers, customers, suppliers,
and friends of the company in the investment community.
The goal of the
showcase event is to
introduce the startups to
the wider world
Lorem ipsum dolor
“
”
MOVING
FORWARD
MOVING FORWARD
HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 34
The Showcase Event, though it’s the high point, is not really the end of the Bridge
program. Since it’s built on relationships, those relationships continue, from one
cycle of the Bridge to the next.
The best recommendation of the Bridge program comes
from the participants themselves, who go back to the startup
community and recommend our program to other startups.
The dividends are cumulative, as we gain more connections and experience and,
on our side, experience direct benefits in innovation. And those direct benefits
don’t begin to compare with the indirect benefits of paying it forward and build-
ing relationships and connections.
We’ve had several cycles of the Bridge and have expanded to other locations,
even inviting external partners to join with us in supporting the program. We’re
eager to hear from you about any questions you have as well as your experience
working with startups.
For further information contact
Anthony Newstead
Global Group Director, Emerging Technologies  Strategic Innovation
anthony@coca-cola.com
How Coca-Cola Started Working with Startups

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How Coca-Cola Started Working with Startups

  • 1.
  • 2. CONTENTS Why We Created The Bridge So You Want to Build a Bridge Stage 1 | Getting Ready to Build a Bridge Stage 2 | Casting the Show Stage 3 | Bringing the Bridge to Life Stage 4 | Sponsor Connect Day: Speed-dating for Innovation Stage 5 | Celebrating Success: The Showcase Event Moving Forward 1 9 11 18 23 27 31 33
  • 3. For big companies, significant innovation can be elusive. “ ” WHYWE CREATED THEBRIDGE
  • 4. WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 2 Because startups often begin by building a business around a core of significant innovation, they seemed the logical place to begin looking for answers For big companies, significant innova- tion can be elusive. Often, large enter- prise innovation is incremental, focus- ing narrowly on particular products or smaller technology initiatives. Iden- tifying and adopting game-changing ideas is much harder. In 2010, the Bridge at Coca-Cola was created based on a strategic mandate from President and Chief Executive Officer Muhtar Kent and championed by former Coca-Cola CIO Ed Steinike, that challenged the organization to become more innovative. We need- ed to determine how we might best bring in technology across our com- pany that could open up new pos- sibilities and fuel big innovations at a business level, affecting the ways we do things, make decisions, work together, and more. We began by reviewing and transforming a number of internal processes around innovation. But, while necessary, this was not sufficient. We soon realized that we needed to look beyond our own organization, reaching out to identify and embrace new technologies and services. But what was the best way to do this? Because startups often begin by building a business around a core of significant innovation, they seemed the logical place to begin looking for answers. To tap into this well, however, we knew we had to develop relationships with the startup community that would be mutually beneficial. We needed to connect in a way that helped them grow while also helping us become more fundamentally innovative. Our approach, launched in 2014, was to develop a program for working with a local community of startups called “The Bridge,” which focused on finding prom- ising new ideas and helping startups successfully commercialize them. Aptly named, the program has helped connect Coca-Cola with a robust startup com- munity – and has yielded many surprising benefits to both sides. The program truly works. It works so well, in fact, that now we want to share what we’ve learned. We want to provide you with both the motivation and the specific knowledge you need to start a similar program. That’s why we wrote this ebook.
  • 5. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 3 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE We needed to tap into the new thinking, risk- embracing philosophies, and boundless optimism and energy of startups THE BACKSTORY OF THE BRIDGE The Bridge at Coca-Cola was created based on a CEO-led strategic mandate that challenged the organization to be- come more innovative. To do this, we took a hard look at our current approach to innovation, looking for strengths as well as issues. While our current approach wasn’t really bro- ken, it also wasn’t optimal. One issue quickly emerged: we needed to overcome our “large enterprise risk aversion” and instead learn to embrace risk. We also had to make it easier to inno- vate. In the past, many people had tried to bring new ideas to life, but all too often their efforts were met with long delays and ballooning costs. Over time, risk aversion, frustration, and organi- zational inertia led to fewer and fewer attempts to disrupt the status quo. To fix this, we decided we needed to augment our existing process with a sup- plementary approach that could allow us to tap into the new thinking, risk-em- bracing philosophies, and boundless optimism and energy of startups. But how? And where? We began by doing a deep dive to understand the opportunities and needs of a startup community. We decided to focus on one of the most vibrant, crea- tive, and extensive tech communities in the world, Tel Aviv. There, in early 2014, we sat down with a group of investors and serial entrepreneurs and asked them what the startups needed. An incubator? No, they really didn’t need another one. An accelerator? Same situation. “What we really need,” they said, “is a bridge to putting our technology to work in real-world business situations.” And thus the Bridge program was born, focused on bringing tangible value to our business units, while also delivering an adrenaline shot into our entire com- pany by changing and accelerating the way innovation occurs. Just as impor- tant, the Bridge builds connections and relationships that innovators truly need, strengthening startups and creating goodwill in the startup community.
  • 6. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 4 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE WHY YOU MAY WANT A BRIDGE PROGRAM TOO Tap into the energy and creativity of innovators and drive real business improvement Encourage a nimble entrepreneurial mindset across your organization Create a defined and repeatable process to keep innovation flowing Use your company’s knowledge and assets to help fledgling companies succeed Develop sustained relationships with the startup community and enhance your brand and reputation
  • 7. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 5 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE WHAT’S IN A BRIDGE? BUILD A BRIDGE FROM THE ENTERPRISE TO INNOVATION
  • 8. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 6 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE BRIDGE PROGRAM ECOSYSTEM BUSINESS UNITS WITH SPONSORS STARTUPS (with and without proof of concept) BUSINESS MANAGERS INNOVATION THEME 1 INNOVATION THEME 3 INNOVATION THEME 2
  • 9. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 7 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE BENEFITS OF CREATING A BRIDGE Just like a physical bridge brings benefits to those who live on either side of it, a Bridge program brings benefits to both enterprises and startups. FOR ENTERPRISES A Bridge program brings an entrepreneurial spark of innovation into your company with minimal risk and high impact. You do this through building a community of entrepre- neurialism. With a Bridge program, you expand your horizons in terms of the products and servic- es startups provide that may be able to help your business, in return for actively helping the startups grow and develop. And you do this without forcing a startup to sacrifice eq- uity or requiring your company to invest in an unproven business. It’s a virtuous circle that benefits all participants. A Bridge program broadens innovation, mov- ing beyond established practices for internal innovation and bringing in ideas from the outside world, focused on core business chal- lenges in a way that dramatically increases the probability of finding actionable projects. FOR STARTUPS The program provides commercialization training and engagement opportunities. There are a number of different aspects to commercialization. For one thing, startups receive training on marketing, branding, positioning, audience identification, pitching, and sales and negotiation training as part of the program. Most startups have no way to learn these things otherwise, and large companies typically excel at them. The sponsoring company also brings large marketing departments and reach to the training program. This improves startups’ branding as well. Moreover, in our program, startups often have a bona fide commercialization oppor- tunity because they become “approved vendors” from Day One, avoid- ing the typical cumbersome approval process. Engagement is another major benefit. For example, our program lets startups interact with experts, VCs, partners, and large companies in a sheltered environment where they receive help and support without being required to give up any equity. Major events in the Bridge pro- gram provide prime networking opportunities for startups to refine their marketing and messaging and understand how their ideas could become viable products. They can also rapidly and significantly expand their existing networks. Their selection for the Bridge program also enhances their credibility.
  • 10. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 8 WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE GIVING AND GETTING THROUGH A BRIDGE GIVE GET STARTUPS Semi-exclusive trial of their products, signing an agree- ment not to sell to speci- fied competitors during the program Mentoring and training while they continue to de- velop their product Active participation in the program and all events Real-world experience in working with a successful business Experience working direct- ly with the business unit that sponsors them Access to their technology Training on marketing and commercialization Knowledge and enthusiasm Guidance for commercializ- ing their product Relationships with you and with select customers and partners Lessons learned that will serve them as they sell to a broader customer base GIVE GET ENTERPRISES Help to startups Funding for the program Semi-exclusive access to startup technology for the 7 months of the program Business stakeholders serve as sponsors for start- ups An infusion of startup ener- gy, knowledge and enthu- siasm Respect and genuine help Goodwill for your brand Expertise and training Insight into the “new new” thing Time and energy Relationships with startups and the startup community Many intangible, ongoing benefits that compound with each cycle of the Bridge
  • 11. We’re going to cut to the chase, sharing the specific approaches and tactics that have worked for us so you can hopefully create a successful Bridge program of your own “ ” SOYOU WANT TO BUILD A BRIDGE
  • 12. WHY WE CREATED THE BRIDGE HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 10 10 SO YOU WANT TO BUILD A BRIDGE Launch the program with a kickoff that prioritizes community and relationship building Provide support for the startups, such as training, ac- cess to industry experts and connect them to relevant employees for potential pilot opportunities Celebrate startup achievements and allow them to connect with people or companies that could help further commercialize their ideas Provide ongoing support to the startups as they con- tinue to grow We could write a whole book on the many benefits that we’ve seen at Coca-Cola from working with startups, and maybe someday we will. But this is an ebook, and we’re going to cut to the chase, sharing the specific approaches and tactics that have worked for us so you can hopefully create a successful Bridge program of your own. Are you ready? Let’s dive in. Get executive buy-in Streamline processes for getting started Get business stakeholders from across the company to invest Choose core themes that solve problems across those business areas Hire a management lead and an operations lead with roots in the startup community Find and select startups whose solutions address the core themes 1 7 2 8 3 94 10 5 6
  • 13. In working with startups, we had to streamline a few things because our conventional processes, which make perfect sense for our ongoing business activities, do not work for startups “ ” STAGE1 GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE
  • 14. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 12 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE GET A TOP LEADER ON YOUR SIDE Working with startups is going to shake things up. (Remember: that’s actually your goal.) When shakeups and shakeouts happen, you’re going to want executive sponsorship in place to support the changes and help move things forward rapidly. It could be the CMO, CIO, a head of a large Business Unit, the Chief Digital Officer, or even the CEO – but the point is, you’re going to want a commit- ted and respected champion to put some wind at your back. CREATE A STARTUP SPEEDWAY In working with startups, we had to streamline a few things be- cause our conventional processes, which make perfect sense for our ongoing business activities, do not work for startups. For example, our existing vendor agreement is complex and dozens of pages long. We felt it could place an undue burden on most startups, making it difficult, for example, to fast track a Proof of Concept (POC). So we created a much simplified evalu- ation agreement, with the caveat that if our relationship with the startup went beyond a POC, the startup would then sign a tradi- tional vendor agreement. Similarly, we needed a way to quickly roll out a POC from an IT perspective. We needed an agreement with IT that would allow us to set up something really experi- mental, something that might not even work at scale, and let end users get their hands on it. Traditionally, IT doesn’t let end users touch things unless they’re fully vetted and tested out, but we got them to agree to an exception for these types of projects. However, we set it up so that, if the POC was successful and a given technology more widely rolled out, IT would then have the oppor- tunity to follow its normal vetting and testing process. These two changes were critical to success. When possible, startups have to be able to run a POC di- rectly with end users in a controlled live environment. If we hadn’t changed our processes to make them startup-friendly, we would have hamstrung our ability to work with startups. We couldn’t have adhered to the aggressive seven-month timeline for the Bridge. Worse, startups might view our company not as help- ful mentors but as obstructive bureaucrats. Startups have to be able to run a Proof of Concept directly with end users in a controlled live environment
  • 15. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 13 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE IDENTIFY YOUR ALLIES AND GET DIVERSIFIED FUNDING A Bridge program is a cross-functional business initiative. You’ll need stakeholders from across the organization who are willing to invest their money in the program and their time in mentoring startups. In exchange, they’ll have input into the types of startups that are selected. These stakeholders will ultimately become sponsors for individual startups later on in the process. In order to be successful, you’ll need funding. The goal is not just to fund one cycle of the Bridge, but to secure an ongo- ing commitment to the program based on results. Meet with people across the organization to cultivate sup- port and then get small contributions from as many business areas as possible. Important: set the contribution level low enough to be a discretionary individual executive payment, while high enough to fulfill the needs of the program when pooled with all other contributions. The aim is to make en- gagement and ownership easy and automatic for the busi- ness area executive. Having support from multiple business areas protects total project funding, ensuring that if priorities of a single individual or department change, the Bridge program doesn’t disappear. ASSEMBLE AN “INSIDE-OUTSIDE” MANAGEMENT TEAM A Bridge program should be managed by a blended team, one with key players from inside and outside the sponsoring company A Bridge program should be man- aged by a blended team, one with key players from both inside the sponsoring company and from outside, specifically individuals with deep roots in the startup community. In fact, we strongly recommend that the two key full- time roles on the team, the Man- agement Lead and the Operations Lead, come from outside the organiza- tion and are known and respected within the local startup community. This “inside-outside” management approach will deliver: ii Stronger interest in the project and greater trust among the startup community ii Faster actions and fewer bureaucratic stumbling blocks ii Clear perception of independence from the enterprise; this is not just “another department” or “part of IT” Ensuring independence is so important that we recom- mend that the management team considering forming its own LLC/LTD.
  • 16. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 14 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE We’ve mentioned two critical roles that we feel should be filled by outsid- ers, the Management Lead and the Operations Lead. But what does each of these individuals do? The Management Lead is responsible for sponsor engagement, referral network management, PR and marketing duties, and financial control of the entire program. He or she will be the lead connector of the program – linking startups with sponsors, connecting with VCs who can recommend worthy startups to the program, and cultivating relationships that can help the startups grow. Clearly, this person needs to have a strong network throughout the startup ecosystem. The Operations Lead is responsible for startup en- gagement, scheduling training, POC pilot follow-ups, event management, and budget management. This person builds and maintains the referral network. He or she brings in speakers for day-long meetings (we call them “Inspire Days”) that provide attendees with expert perspectives and a chance to engage as a community. The Operations Lead also has the respon- sibility of running the day-to-day operations within the workspace itself. This person is like a PR event team and project manager in one. SET UP AN ADVISORY COMMITTEE In our model, the management team re- ports to an Advisory Committee made up of the business areas that have financially contributed to the program. This commit- tee can include department heads within the business or other business area de- signees. It should meet at least monthly and is chaired by the Management Lead. The committee’s responsibilities include providing oversight of budgeting, marketing, program themes, and training. They’ll also have a significant amount of input and control over which startups and projects get selected, and they’ll help co- ordinate meetings between startups and sponsors. Management Lead Operations Lead
  • 17. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 15 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE CHOOSE CORE THEMES They should be broadly focused, not narrow solutions. You’re trying to avoid having startups focus on a need that’s unique to your company; after all, serving a niche market of one can kill startups. If you’re looking for a custom solution to a problem your company (and only your company) has, you should hire a consult- ant to solve that problem. In addition, Core Themes should not be tied to specific technologies. For exam- ple, virtual reality is a technology, not a solution to a business problem. Virtual reality could be a way that a solution is offered, but it’s not directly a solution to a business problem. To give you a sense of a good way to define Core Themes, here are the five that we developed for The Bridge in Tel Aviv: Consumer Engagement Consumer Retail Supply Chain Marketing Innovation Health Wellness One of the most important things that the Advisory Committee does is to select what we call “Core Themes” – that is, broad high-level business challenges requiring real innovation to solve. These Core Themes serve as guides for determining which startups should participate in the program. Only startups whose solutions ad- dress one or more of these themes should be considered. Core themes are driven by the needs of the business, and highlight that you are seeking business solutions to business problems.
  • 18. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 16 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE GET THE WORKSPACE READY The Bridge emphasizes community and relationships; it’s not a competition. And it therefore needs a shared work- space that allows startups to interact and build a strong sense of community and “working together.” It can also serve as a focal point for executives who want to meet the startups; you can announce that a certain person or group will be in the workspace on a given day for startups who are interested in meeting with that person or group. This space needs to be available for the duration of the program, and should include offices for the management team, meeting/training space, facilities for casual interac- tions, and – for some early stage startups – even regular office space. The startups will meet there weekly with the Management Lead, and will be encouraged to come to the workspace for training and networking. To keep this program separate and independent, we strongly suggest that the workspace not be located on the corporate campus. You’ll also have to be prepared to offer customized training that fits the needs of individual startups PUT TRAINING IN PLACE Training is crucial in helping start- ups succeed. The Management and Operations Leads work together with the Advisory Committee to develop and offer training. Marketing, sales and negotiating skills are typically core training mod- ules that provide significant benefit to most startups. However, you’ll also have to be prepared to offer customized training that fits the needs of individual startups to ensure each one gets the help it needs to accelerate its route to mar- ket. In our experience, for example, some startups had a keen interest in understanding privacy laws. Others wanted to understand at a granular level how our logistics system operates. We also enhanced the program by inviting our internal experts who came to Tel Aviv to share their knowl- edge at the workspace. It is the Management Lead’s job to talk to the startups, find out about each one’s specific needs and determine how they can be met. The Operations Lead ensures that training opportunities are well publicized.
  • 19. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 17 STAGE 1 | GETTING READY TO BUILD A BRIDGE This form of tactical, personalized, relationship-based training helps to differentiate the Bridge program from commercially run incubators, so it’s important to spend some time on getting it right. The illustration below shows our training schedule – but it’s possible that yours will be a bit different, driven by the type of business problems and startups in your program. ii Understanding Your Customer ii Customer Interviews ii Developing Brand Loglines MONTH 1 ii Developing Brand Loglines ii How Our Business Works MONTH 2 ii Retail, Supply Chain, Consumer Engagement, Marketing Innovation, Health Wellness Strategies Panel Discussion MONTH 3 ii How to Negotiate ii How to Network Effectively MONTH 4 ii Define Themes ii Activate Referral Network ii Application Process ii Interviews MONTH 0 ii Piloting for Success ii How to Pivot - Lessons Learned from Successful Startups MONTH 5 ii How to Scale Your Business ii How to De-Tech Your Language MONTH 6 ii Developing Presentations for the Bridge Event ii Rehearsals MONTH 7
  • 20. Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to find startups to apply to your program “ ” STAGE2 CASTING THESHOW
  • 21. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 19 STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW Now that you have everything in place, it’s time to find startups to apply to your program. Our method of handling this – and one that we recommend – was to rely on the Management Lead, who used a strong referral network to help find startups for the program. Rather than advertising publicly, our Management Lead spoke with VCs, angel investors, serial entrepreneurs, and incubator and accelerator owners, asking them to rec- ommend startups for the program. This approach provided many benefits. For one thing, it lowered the friction in attracting quality startups to the program. Moreover, we think we built a large and high-quality pool: the recommenders acted as a “pre-filter,” identifying candidates that they felt best met the needs of the program. How many referrals are you looking for? About 500, from which you’ll probably get about 100 applica- tions. Ultimately you’ll select 10 to 12 startups, with the expectation that on average, only one of those will result in an agreement to implement the startup’s technology. THE STARTUP SELECTION PROCESS FINDING STARTUPS THROUGH YOUR REFERRAL NETWORK How many referrals are you looking for? About 500, from which you’ll probably get about 100 applications. Activate Apply Filter Select Success 500 100 50 10 1 Activate Referral Network to recommend 500+ potential startups Target 100 + applications and conduct initial online reviews Filter to 50+ potentials and conduct physical interview sessions Align on the final 10 and initiate the program Target one successful agreement out of the 10
  • 22. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 20 STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW TAKING APPLICATIONS Because of the pre-screening process, the appli- cation should be succinct. Ask no more than 15 to 20 vital questions that get to the heart of what the startup does and why it might be a fit for the Bridge program. You might include questions such as: ii What is your revenue model? ii What core theme does your work align to? ii Why are you interested in the Bridge? Who is your customer? ii What problem does your technology address? As you’re crafting questions, consider the types of questions you’ll need to answer in order to select the candidate, such as: ii How innovative do you think the solution is? ii How relevant is it to your business area? ii What opportunity do you think there is for first mover advantage? QUALIFYING STARTUPS The criteria for selecting startups for the Bridge program identifies a technology the startup can build a business around, not just a product. The aim of the program is to bring value to startups, to train them and give them guidance. If a mature company applies, it’s likely they don’t need the Bridge but are instead looking for a sales lead. In that case they should not be considered for the pro- gram (though you may decide to put them in touch with the relevant area of the your business). It’s important not to mix apples and oranges, or, in this case, early stage or growth companies with mature companies. Our reason for this is simple: community building. You want startups to bond be- cause they are sharing the same experiences and challenges. What’s more, a large part of the success of the program is predicated on the buy-in of participants. If you let in mature companies who, for example, skip the training, others may think they don’t need it either, and this can have a very negative impact on your overall communi- ty-building efforts. At the other end of the spectrum, you want to ensure that startups are going to be able to succeed in speaking with the network. Even if they have a great idea, a company that can’t sell itself or translate its technology to the needs of business stakeholders will not be a good fit for the program. It’s important not to mix apples and oranges, or, in this case, early stage or growth companies with mature companies
  • 23. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 21 STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW Ideally, about 40% of qualifying startups should be early stage companies and 60% should be growth companies. Typically, our early stage startups have been operating less than a year and may have just a single employee. They will typically value the use of the office space and will only have pre- seed funding. Growth companies will be a little bit larger and have a prod- uct in the alpha or beta development phase. They will often have angel or seed investment and their own space. The startups selected should demon- strate an innovative solution, industry relevance, and first-to-market po- tential. (That’s another reason why established players don’t make sense for the program.) SELECTING STARTUPS Every business unit that invested in the program should provide someone to serve on the Selection Committee. This committee is responsible for scoring applications from potential startups against relevant core themes. In our process, our Selection Committee members gave applicants a 1-5 rating for each question on the applica- tion and calculated an average score. Selection Commit- tee members then discussed the highest-ranked applications and decided who should advance to the interview stage. (At this stage, the committee also assessed if there were enough applicants for a particu- lar theme, and, if not, were prepared to return to the referral network to find more applicants for that theme.) This process yields 50 to 75 companies, which you should bring in for 30-minute in-person interviews that include the Management Lead, business representatives, and at least one VC/angel investor. You also need technology experts to make sure the startup’s ideas are viable. Interviews are time-consuming, but help give you a much better feel for the company and its products. They also help to build buy-in from all participants. After 4 to 5 days of interviews, the Selection Committee narrows it applicants down to the top 20 candidates based on scores and then selects 10 to 12 startups that they feel can collectively address the broad core themes. A caveat: try not to select two startups that directly compete with one another – this could under- mine relationship-building efforts. Try not to select two startups that directly compete with one another
  • 24. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 22 STAGE 2 | CASTING THE SHOW ONBOARDING STARTUPS Startups that are selected sign a participant agreement that includes a non-compete with a limited number of key competitors for the duration of the program, a mutual NDA lasting five years, and an agreement that the startup owns its own IP. The non-compete is quite limited and carefully designed not to hinder the startup. Rather, it says that while the startup is in the program, a few key competitors are off limits. This provides “breathing space” for the sponsor organization to engage freely with the startup, while also adding a certain pressure to drive forward quickly during the program.
  • 26. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 24 STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE The Bridge is a wrap-around program. It is designed help the startup in any way possible to move its product forward while at the same time providing commercialization training. MONTH 1MONTH 0 MONTH 2 MONTH 3 MONTH 4 MONTH 5 MONTH 6 MONTH 7 Start TrainingLaunch Event Showcase Event THE TIMELINE FOR THE BRIDGE Sponsor Day (Partner Premises) An opening session of tactical training and access to decision-makers Pre-Program (60-90 Days) Define themes, activate referral network, execute application process and interviews Development (Bridge Workspace) Work on your solution in a shared workspace Bridge Showcase (Bridge Location) A public event held at the Bridge location Pilot (Upon Request) An opportunity to pilot your solution License (Upon Request) The chance to license your product
  • 27. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 25 STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE WELCOME TO THE BRIDGE On the first day of the Bridge program, the startups come together for initial corporate orientation and socializing. For Coca-Cola this is conducted via a field trip to a bottler that starts off their orientation to learning about Coca-Cola as business. In order for the startups to successfully work with the business stakeholders who sponsor them, they need to understand the language that we speak. For example, our definition of a customer is not a consumer having a Coke, but the retail chain that buys our products. In order to have effec- tive conversations with stakeholders, startups not only need training in marketing, but training in business-speak. The commercialization training program starts right away. In addition to the training modules outlined earlier, we bring in our marketing and branding lead who listens to each startup as they describe their service. She reviews their decks and makes some initial recommendations. ENGAGEMENT IS CRITICAL Engagement with startups should be continual and frequent and led by the management team. There are five key components that startups should get out of this engagement. Startups should feel they have a support network and are being heard at all stages. SPONSOR CONNECT DAY CONNECT Regular 1-on-1 meetings with the Operations Lead to discuss training, opportunities, challenges, feedback on how the startups have done in meetings, and feedback on the program. SOCIALIZE Weekly, get-togethers for participants to build community. INSPIRE Biweekly meetings with content experts who can provide the startups with knowledge and training they wouldn’t get otherwise. MEET Business stakeholders stop by the workspace to meet participants. INFORM SUPPORT Shared information is put together and made available to all by the Operations Lead. SHOWCASE EVENT 1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  • 28. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 26 STAGE 3 | BRINGING THE BRIDGE TO LIFE THE LAUNCH EVENT The Launch Event is a party where we officially welcome the startups. It’s a social getting-to-know-you event, not a place for pitches. It’s about building relationships and community. The event is an announcement to the referral network and community that the program has been activated. To avoid pitches, there are no formal speeches – startups are free to mingle with others in an informal context. The management team leads and plans the event.
  • 30. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 28 STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY: SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION Sponsor Connect Day is a pivotal point in the process. Startups meet with executives in a series of 20-minute sessions with the hopes of getting a follow-up meeting – and ultimately a sponsor that they will work with closely. So, for example, if a sponsor decides not to proceed with the startup, they should look to provide general guid- ance that could help the startup, rath- er than simply dropping them as one would a normal vendor. It’s important to remember that startups are your brand ambassadors in the startup community. Because executives looking to become poten- tial sponsors are used to working with vendors, this takes some adjustment on both sides. PREPARING FOR SPONSOR CONNECT DAY But before Sponsor Connect Day, there’s work to do to set expectations on both sides of the aisle. Preparing the startups is critical. During the Sponsor Connect Day meetings, startups might be tempted to pitch hard – but that’s not the point. Instead, they need to be counseled to take the time to listen and ask questions, finding out as much as possible about the businessperson’s challenges before talking about how their startup’s service could help. If they listen first, they’ll learn a great deal and be better positioned to have an effective follow-up meeting where they can go into their service in more detail. Preparing the executives is just as important. Potential sponsors have to under- stand that startup folks are often rough around the edges, so they shouldn’t ex- pect a fully polished presentation. More importantly, they must realize that start- ups are not vendors. The relationship is collaborative and more like mentoring than like a client-vendor relationship. It’s important to remember that startups are your brand ambassadors in the startup community
  • 31. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 29 STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY: SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION THE STRUCTURE OF SPONSOR CONNECT DAY The structure of Sponsor Connect Day is straightforward. A senior executive opens the day, each executive is then assigned a room, and startups rotate through. Business stakeholders are asked to give their feedback on the startups they meet. Simple Google Forms can be used to collect this feedback. The day allows interest to be sparked on both sides – the executives and the startups. Ideally, a potential sponsor leaves saying, I’m interested; let’s go try this. It’s an opportunity for the startup to meet executives that have business challenges that their solution could potentially address. While the day is supportive, the Bridge program doesn’t babysit startups. If a startup cannot sell itself, the program won’t step in to do it for them. The startups should view the day as a fact-finding mission. They’re testing out their ideas. By the end of the day, they have a better understanding of market needs and who they might partner with. FOLLOW-UP: CONNECTING WITH SPONSORS The success of Sponsor Connect Day is measured by the follow-up done afterwards. The goal of the follow-up is to continue the en- gagement of those who attended so that they stay interested and continue to buy into the program. Thank you notes should be sent, and all volunteers should be thanked. Follow-up meetings are arranged by the Management Lead, as necessary, based on the opportunities identified by startups and executives. Executives’’ feedback on ideas and pitches is provided to startups. The success of Sponsor Connect Day is measured by the follow-up done afterwards
  • 32. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 30 STAGE 4 | SPONSOR CONNECT DAY: SPEED DATING FOR INNOVATION DEVELOPMENT AND WORKING TOWARD A POC During the follow-up period, all of the startups connect with their sponsor(s). They work with sponsor executives to try to get to the point where there’s an opportunity for a POC or a pilot of the startup’s service. (In the meantime, they are going through the training program and improving the way they market and sell). Even though development is streamlined, there is often time for a POC or a pilot to generate results that the startup can highlight at the Showcase Event at the end of the program. Even if the sponsor can’t directly use a startup’s service, the sponsor will help guide the startup with their expertise and connect them with the resources that they need to drive their product forward. Even if the sponsor can’t directly use a startup’s service, the sponsor will help guide the startup with their expertise
  • 34. HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 32 STAGE 5 | CELEBRATING SUCCESS: THE SHOWCASE EVENT The final wrap-up of the program is the Showcase Event, the most public part of the program. Invitees should include all sponsors, VCs, investors, local government officials, busi- ness partners, customers, and the press. The event should focus on all the positives that the startups can bring to the market and celebrate all that they have accomplished during the Bridge program. Each startup should be introduced by someone from the business that has either engaged directly with the startup or is supportive of them, providing a brief overview of the startup. The startup then gives a short (8-10 minute) pres- entation about their ideas. The goal of the showcase event is to introduce the startups to the wider world and allow them to describe the business case for their work. They do this in front of a deliber- ately broad audience. The audience is thus able to look at these startups and decide whether they would fit a need in their market, or a market or company of someone they know. It’s a rapid way to expand the potential reach of the startups across many different audiences. In the case of the Coca-Cola Bridge program, the event occurs in front of employees, bottlers, customers, suppliers, and friends of the company in the investment community. The goal of the showcase event is to introduce the startups to the wider world
  • 36. MOVING FORWARD HOW COCA-COLA STARTED WORKING WITH STARTUPS 34 The Showcase Event, though it’s the high point, is not really the end of the Bridge program. Since it’s built on relationships, those relationships continue, from one cycle of the Bridge to the next. The best recommendation of the Bridge program comes from the participants themselves, who go back to the startup community and recommend our program to other startups. The dividends are cumulative, as we gain more connections and experience and, on our side, experience direct benefits in innovation. And those direct benefits don’t begin to compare with the indirect benefits of paying it forward and build- ing relationships and connections. We’ve had several cycles of the Bridge and have expanded to other locations, even inviting external partners to join with us in supporting the program. We’re eager to hear from you about any questions you have as well as your experience working with startups. For further information contact Anthony Newstead Global Group Director, Emerging Technologies Strategic Innovation anthony@coca-cola.com