Innovation management for start ups and small business

Innovation management for start ups and small business

Recently I delivered a workshop on innovation management. The audience was a number of high potential start-ups. It is a tricky one. Innovation management needs to be ingrained into the DNA of a start-up company, particularly when they start to scale. 

Innovation management for corporates

It is also not high on the priority list. The priority should be sales and product/market fit. If the startup is targeting large organisations, that invariably means that the startup becomes part of the innovation management of that large corporation.

Ulster Bank

That is not an easy task. As one of the founders of Smallbusinesscan, working closely with Ulster Bank on a variety of projects, including innovation, I know how difficult it is. And Ulster Bank has been one of the most innovative banks in Ireland. 

Examples are Business Achievers, Smallbusinesscan, Hack/make a bank, MoneySense, Business Women Can E-Spark and Dogpatchlabs. At the moment a full-blown innovation team of Ulster Banks is in Dogpatch engaging with Fintech.

The challenges 

They shared some of the challenges that they are facing and this is where start-ups need to take note. As a unit of the bank they have to deal with over 30 key policies which are all required to ensure they keep their customers and their information safe, including 

  • Anti-Money Laundering 
  • Sanctions
  • Anti-Bribery and Corruption
  • Complaint Handling
  • Privacy and Client Confidentiality
  • Information Security 
  • Business Continuity 
  • IT Continuity 
  • Fraud Prevention
  • Payment Security

As a regulated entity and being part of the RBS group, they maintain strong security standard to keep their customers safe and secure (for example ISO27001 and ISO27002). 

Some statistics

The process that RBS applies to scouting and engagement with startups 

  1. Idea (2000)
  2. Qualification (200)
  3. Proof of concept (20-50)
  4. Pilot (10)
  5. Launch (5)

The statistics are frightening. From 2000 ideas, 200 get to the next stage. Ultimately five get to launch. That is a .25% success rate. 

Not only banks

I have no reason to believe that this only applies to banks. There are always internal policies, foreign ownership issues and regulations that large companies have to deal with. 

The concern for start-ups is that in an IOT world you will have to deal with one corporate platform or another. The book to read is “The Third Wave.”

Deep understanding

It shows the importance of understanding the innovation management of your potential clients and the rules they apply. It might not be the best use of your limited resources. 

If you want some materials to think it through, a copy of the workshop on innovation management is available here

PS The only concept that seems to shortcut these statistics are the hackathons where you have an opportunity to engage more directly with large customers and win funding or adoption. Ulster Bank will be organising one again early next year. Also, see which is a cool one around eco-entrepreneurship.



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