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Tag: startups

Thought Leadership Webinar Recording: Learning from FinTech Startups

July’s thought leadership webinar was led by Timothy Bosco, Senior Vice President of Investor Services at Brown Brothers Harriman.

Read more FinTech insights from Bosco here.

Register for our next thought leadership webinar, The State of FinTech, here.

Access other GPS thought leadership webinars here.

What Established Companies Can Really Learn From Startups

The following blog post was written by Timothy Bosco, Senior Vice President of Investor Services at Brown Brothers Harriman. Tim will be hosting a webinar on this topic on Thursday, July 28 at 2 p.m. EDT (rsvp here). 

Today, some of the most successful financial service providers are seeking lessons about risk taking from an unlikely source – early stage startup companies.

Whether it’s through the venture investment community or directly with leading fintechs, more and more established companies are looking to model startup behaviors despite the fact that these emerging companies actually fail more than 90% of the time.1

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Learn more about the newest GPS master’s degree

It is easy to assume this growing trend must be because the fast-paced, innovative startup culture inspires established companies to take bigger chances in search of bigger rewards. The real reason for this new fascination, however, is often just the opposite. It might actually be the way startups deal with uncertainty and efficiently mitigate their risk of failure that is driving the real interest.


Clearly, the “eat-or-be-eaten” environment in which most startups operate has a way of forcing efficiency and creativity. When something is not working to plan, only those with the willingness and the ingenuity to shift fast enough have a chance of making it.

It’s that dexterity large organizations envy most. In fact, there probably isn’t a corporate innovation team out there that hasn’t, at some point, incorporated the “fail fast” mantra into their lexicon.

Large companies also recognize that many of the same factors that threaten a startup’s success can impact their own product strategies to the same degree – technology can evolve overnight, customer preferences are fickle, funding is always limited, and new competition can spring up from anywhere at any time.

The difference for startups, though, is that they have the most to lose by ignoring signals to fail fast. In most cases, it is their survival instincts that draw out the entrepreneurial resiliency needed to bootstrap success even if that means setting aside their original ambitions.

Pinterest is one of many great examples of a startup that was forced to abandon its initial plan only to architect an even bigger opportunity. In 2009, the founders of Pinterest initially attempted to launch the very first mobile-enabled shopping application called Tote. Despite strong customer demand, retailer support, and adequate seed funding, the idea never took off because of the relative immaturity of mobile payment technologies. Instead of doubling down and waiting for payment technologies catch up, Tote switched gears and relaunched a much simpler application that kick started a new visual social network phenomenon. It turns out that Pinterest is among the most likely IPO candidates in 2016 with an anticipated $11 billion valuation.2

While large companies can’t necessarily manufacture the competitive environments that shape actual startup behaviors, there is still a lot they can learn from successful entrepreneurs about staying lean, focused, and in control of new product innovation. The following table outlines a few key success factors commonly found among startups that reinvented themselves early in their lifecycles.

Adopting Successful Startup Strategies

What Established Companies Figure 1

Within the corporate context, these startup strategies also suggest an ideal investment profile for mitigating risk. The minimum and maximum ranges depicted below illustrate the relative levels of investment in terms of both time and money throughout the product development cycle.

Creating the Right New Product Investment Profile

What Established Companies Figure 2
It clearly takes both practical decision making and an unconditional commitment to make it big as a startup. The people who run them are responsible for every detail, every success, and every failure. It is that entrepreneurial perspective that guides startups to fail fast. For that reason, established companies must understand the importance of empowering their product teams to own their decisions about how to incorporate failure before it gets expensive or even worse… before it becomes destructive.

1 Forbes, 90% of Startups Fail: Here’s What You Need to Know About the 10%, January 2015.

2 Nasdaq, Is Pinterest a Top IPO Candidate for 2016?, December 2015.

This blog post was originally published on Brown Brothers Harriman’s Insights blog on May 6, 2016. RSVP to Tim’s webinar, What Can Established Companies Really Learn from FinTech Startups, here.

The Opportunities in Big Data Still Ripe for Innovation

– Associate Editor, BostInno Tech

Big data is the “new currency” — an innovation that can boost or bust a business when not properly taken advantage of. Smart startups have been dipping into the deluge of data to draw out audience analytics, predict maintenance before costly breakdowns or better deliver targeted treatments to their consumers.

With innovation naturally comes a surge of yet-to-be explored opportunities other companies should have the foresight to capitalize on.

“More big data disruption is coming,” said Ryan Betts, CTO of Bedford-based VoltDB, in an email to BostInno. “And it will be around real-time, interactive experiences.”

The space is one VoltDB has been able to establish itself in, by providing an in-memory relational database that combines massive data ingest with real-time analytics and decisioning, so that organizations can act on data at its greatest point of value.

Betts pointed to big-name behemoths, such as Google, Amazon, IBM, Oracle and Microsoft, that are also establishing themselves in the space. He noted “unlimited Internet-attached storage space can be purchased at very cost competitive prices,” which, when combined with “ubiquitous computing,” are creating a network effect that’s become increasingly beneficial to consumers.

“In the same way that social networks become more powerful and offer greater utility as members join and build connections,” Betts explained, “these devices will connect to share data, to cooperate with one another and to interact with us in our environment.”

Betts menCloud-Computing-captioned Nest, a company reinventing the thermostat and smoke alarm by connecting to the Internet and syncing up to apps in a way that’s reinventing climate control. The collision Betts’ described is even more evident in individuals’ “smartphone on the coffee table” or “tablet a family member uses for Facebook.”

He added, “For the consumer, the automation and the disruptive potential of these devices communicating and interacting with one another will create relevant, micro-personalized experiences.”

To Atlas Venture Partner Chris Lynch, co-founder and board member of Kendall Square’s big data hackerspace hack/reduce, the future is, indeed, in “automation, simplification and integration.” Lynch broke each element down in an email to BostInno, saying:

Automation of the process of analyzing data, simplification of the user interface to allow non-data scientists to participate in the big data revolution and integration of next generation analytics into legacy applications people already know how to use.

Lynch acknowledged big data’s downfalls, adding, “Platform and tool companies are largely played out.”

His comment was reminiscent of that of Google Ventures’ Rich Miner, who, at Harvard Business School’s recent Cyberposium, argued, “Big data is a very overused word.” He added that big data is often “a layer, not a startup itself.” Yet, he had formerly singled out Nest for taking “mundane devices” and making it work on users’ behalf, noting there’s “a huge amount of innovation” in the connected devices space — which all circles back to big data.

“From a pure technology perspective, we need to deliver scale, security and simplicity,” Lynch said. “[We need to] make it easy for people to absorb the technology and increase the time to value.”

To Betts, the industry can see immense value from interconnections, as well. As he posited:

Interconnections will impact factory manufacturing plants; impact how predictive maintenance is scheduled and executed on high-end industrial equipment; create connected Internet services that must scale authorization and authentication, detect and prevent financial, telephone and even online-game fraud, and make construction sites better monitored, safer and more efficient. And that’s not all. It will also participate in building a smarter electric grid that is cheaper, less wasteful, more reliable and designed to supply power to electric vehicles while generating power through broadly distributed residential solar panels and other alternative sources.

Now it’s up to innovators to seize the opportunities.

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