Springboard for innovation

Coke is looking for New Zealand entrepreneurs to find solutions to big problems which the global drinks giant can not solve by itself. Coca-Cola's innovation and entrepreneurship vice president David Butler said the drinks company wanted New Zealand entrepreneurs to put their name forward for the Coca Cola "founders project".

The Coca-Cola Company's Vice President of Innovation and Entrepreneurship, David Butler,  was in New Zealand earlier this week speaking at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Better by Design CEO Summit in Auckland. The article below was published by Fairfax. View the original article here

Springboard for Innovation

March 11, 2015

By John Anthony

Coke is looking for New Zealand entrepreneurs to find solutions to big problems which the global drinks giant can not solve by itself.

Coca-Cola's innovation and entrepreneurship vice president David Butler said the drinks company wanted New Zealand entrepreneurs to put their name forward for the Coca Cola "founders project".

The founders project was a model for creating start-ups where Coke partnered with experienced entrepreneurs to try to solve "shark bite" problems, Butler said.

Shark bite problems were things which created "a lot of pain for a lot of people" said at the New Zealand Trade and Enterprise Better by Design CEO Summit Butler.

Through the project entrepreneurs are invited to co-create businesses with Coke and gives them access to the multi-national's resources.

Butler said New Zealanders seemed like good candidates for the project because Kiwis had an ability "to make things happen".

"If that's something that's inherent in all New Zealanders, that's what we're looking for."

Entrepreneurs could either contact the company directly, or Coke would seek out suitable start-up companies as potential candidates, Butler said.

Candidates worked on a problem the soft drink company had and pitched their solutions to a panel. Coke then selected a final candidate or team of candidates and offered a contract to develop a business.

Once an entrepreneur validated their business and was ready to take it to the market, Coke would buy takes a minority ownership stake in the business.

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The model gave the company access to people who could solve problems and develop business models which it may not be able to achieve otherwise, Butler said.

New Zealand's 2014 EY Entrepreneur of the Year and founder of International Volunteer HQ Dan Radcliffe said the model would be attractive to New Zealand entrepreneurs.

"I love the idea. It's a huge opportunity and you'd hope that it would encourage people to see a different pathway coming out of the likes of University," Radcliffe said.

The company would be able to open doors and help start-ups achieve large scale which was something New Zealand entrepreneurs struggled with, he said.

Radcliffe said he wished he had surrounded himself with more mentors when he started his business to help build overseas contacts.

"Those are the sorts of doors Coca-Cola is going to open up for young kiwi entrepreneurs."

Ideally the company would not restrict creative license or remove a start-up from the market it was developed in, he said.

"You'd hope that the ideas or the vision wouldn't be railroaded too much."

People may also have concerns partnering with a big company like Coke, he said.

"People immediately become cagey when there's a big corporate involved."

Butler said so far Coke had taken a minority share in one out of 11 start-ups it had co-created through the project.

The founders project could be a future model of research and development for big companies and it was not an accelerator, incubator, or venture capital project.

Applicants should already be company founders with experience in building products, teams, raising finance and having the skills required to create a high growth start-up, Butler said.

"It's about finding proven founders who want to co-create with a big company and that's not everyone."

Butler said no New Zealanders have applied to take part in the programme but he wanted to hear from those who are interested.

- STUFF