The Corporate Startup Toolkit: Talent & Team - The Bakery %

The Corporate Startup Toolkit: Talent & Team

Andrew Humphries

Having discussed how to identify the right opportunities, what the key success metrics are, and how to achieve buy-in from key stakeholders, we’re now delving into the resources you need to get started. This encapsulates talent and team, elements you will need to guarantee that your corporate startup gets off its feet in the first place. 

Your ‘C-Suite’ 

Again, put your startup hat on and try to understand what roles you need filling. As with any company your corporate startup will need someone who can fill the key role of ‘CEO.’ The role of a CEO within a corporate startup scenario is similar to that of any other CEO. This person will need to have the mandate to make autonomous, business-driven decisions. Furthermore, this individual must be able to drive their vision forward and have the capability to sell the project not only externally but internally (for the startup to get off it’s feet in the first place the CEO will need to have the ear of senior stakeholders). Furthermore, the chosen CEO will need to combine internal knowledge, expertise and input with external information. For instance, leveraging external data and input beyond company resources. So when choosing your ‘CEO’ – consider which member of your team can fill this role and has the necessary power to ensure things will get done. And while there is no one-size fits all, the general structure for your corporate startup may look something like this: the CEO, who, as mentioned, acts as the product owner, is the person who makes the key decisions and is connected to other key stakeholders in the main business. Alongside the CEO there may also be a product/project manager, doubling as the ‘CPO’ and ‘COO’ who oversees the entire operation on a day-to-day basis. In addition to trialing, testing and validating the product, this individual will also need to keep the CEO in the loop, helping them bring their vision forward, arming them with the right information and updates on the startup. The CPO/COO will work with other members of the team to ensure that your corporate startup is operating seamlessly and cohesively.

Ultimately, the overall structure of your corporate startup depends on the product/service you are launching and the talent required for your team may differ from what we will outline below. Nevertheless, we believe these three roles in addition to the CEO and the COO are important – especially if you are launching a product or a challenger brand:

  • A marketing and growth lead (the CMO) – this individual takes on a growth hacking role and is responsible for designing the content strategy and implementing a marketing plan to enable your product to gain traction with users.
  • A creative lead (the Creative Director) – this individual is charged with coming up  with a distinct brand will require creation of appropriate visuals and effective messaging.The creative lead helps create the much needed brand and digital assets for your corporate startup.
  • A tech lead (the CTO) –  if your corporate startup is building out a technology proposition then naturally you will also require a tech lead who can help oversee the building of the product.

While the core team proposed above may seem small, striking a balance between creating a lean enough startup to be agile and cost effective and having enough talent so there are no gaps in expertise will also be crucial when building your team.

Your Corporate Startup Team vs. Your Parent Organisation

When building out your team, consider how close your corporate startup will be to your core business. Keep in mind that behind the CEO, there will also be the entire parent organisation, including other team members, more senior managers and members of the board that your CEO will need to either answer to or consider. An artful balance is required. You want to be close enough to the parent organisation to obtain the resources and support you need, but at an adequately safe distance to avoid being sucked into the bureaucracy of your parent organisation. 

Not Just Another Corporate Project

It takes an entirely different mindset and approach to launch a corporate startup. While you have the advantage of corporate resources, you will need to set up shop in the same manner of a startup. As this three-part series has outlined, this begins by identifying key customer-centric problems, defining the appropriate success metrics to set yourself up for success and obtain investor/shareholder buy-in, and leveraging your internal expertise, resources and potentially external talent to build a team. With these foundations in place, your corporate startup is better poised to help your organisation achieve their goals. Be it launching new disruptive products and services, becoming a player in an entirely different market, or even cannibalising current offerings and transforming the organisation as a whole. In either case, a corporate startup is an effective tool to have in your arsenal when considering your next steps and growth strategy. 

“No matter how brilliant your mind or strategy, if you’re playing a solo game, you will always lose out to a team” Reid Hoffman

There is no doubt that the team you assemble to create and launch your corporate start-up has the ability to make it or break it. Over the years we have worked with various large companies to create corporate start-ups and have learnt a lot about what makes a successful team; from personnel and team structure to incentives and rewards. Let us help you launch a best-in-class venture building team




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