The Bridge Community:Atlanta | A Coca-Cola Founded Commercialization Program Finds Serious Traction With First Cohort of Startups & Enterprises
The Bridge Community:Atlanta has gone beyond enterprise and startup matchmaking and catalyzed four pilots, five proof-of-concepts, and a laundry list of tangential benefits including an acquisition and close to three million dollars in venture capital investments.
Real deals have been made and the Atlanta startup ecosystem strengthened as a result of the commercialization program’s targeted introductions, streamlined agreements, and tactical training. Startups in the area won marquee enterprise clients and in turn those enterprises uncovered new revenue generation and cost saving potential.
The Bridge started three years ago in Tel Aviv as an initiative of Coca-Cola’s global IT group. It found quick success with a mix of branding, positioning, storytelling, and target audience identification programming. The Bridge Community:Atlanta program takes the methodology established in Tel Aviv and is using it to amplify the city’s blossoming startup scene and density of large enterprises (metro Atlanta has twenty-six FORTUNE 1000’s, of which thirteen are FORTUNE 500).
For seven months, five local giants – Capgemini, Cox Enterprises, Intercontinental Hotels Group (IHG) and The Weather Company – joined Coca-Cola to explore potential relationships with ten startups, building solutions ranging from vending machine software to data storage on the block chain.
We’ve broken down this pilot program in terms of internal/direct results, halo benefits, and future programming. Due to the nascent nature of some of these agreements, understand that we can‘t share many details on these new relationships just yet:
- The Results
- The Halo Effect
Startup Growth Metrics
- Plan for 2017
“Cox is committed to finding innovation through the eyes of entrepreneurs in Atlanta. Through our participation in The Bridge we have been able to explore pockets of new services, and our employees’ engagement with the startups has given them a renewed enthusiasm for their internal initiatives.” – Tim Howe, Senior Director Corporate Strategy & Investments at Cox Enterprises.
THE RESULTS – INTERNAL PILOTS
The Bridge Community:Atlanta created a transparent and accelerated environment which resulted in four pilots. Each of the five enterprises in the program selected an internal champion, who then identified fellow employees with a combination of the niche expertise needed to vet the individual startup teams and technology, and the motivation to get a pilot off the ground. The Bridge management team (Carie Davis and Shane Reiser) then prepared the startups to meet with stakeholders through training and coaching that involved discovering the true needs of enterprise clients, creating ideas for pilots, and sales, negotiation, and storytelling training.
Feedback following the pilot cohort showcases that The Bridge Community supplied the tactical guidance necessary to navigate a process typically riddled with stumbling blocks:
“One of the real benefits to this program is that the enterprise companies had skin in the game. People in the enterprise organizations owned the job of proving that their participation was worth it. That accountability meant that the enterprises were not just technology tourists – their goal was to get deals done, not look ‘innovative’ or conduct unpaid experiments.” – Rob Kischuk, CEO & Founder of Converge
“The Bridge gave the strategy team clarity into what we were really looking for. Things we thought we would need versus what our business actually needs to stay ahead of the curve in multiple verticals.” – James Lewis, Strategy & Investments at Cox Enterprises
An Outline of the Four Pilots:
Storj + Cox
Storj helps people make money renting out their empty hard drive space. Their goal is to be the largest provider in the market without owning or operating a physical data center. Over eight thousand developers have used their infrastructure to store data and now Cox can count itself among their users.
During their time in the program, Storj was one of the only pre-revenue companies featured at Venture Atlanta, the Southeast region’s largest investor showcase. During their pitch they announced Cox as their first enterprise customer. Storj is currently storing one Terabyte of data on Cox’s cloud-storage platform and the relationship has kicked off Storj’s first month of revenue in December.
DecisionIQ + Coca-Cola
DecisionIQ is commercializing revolutionary IoT analytics technology developed at Georgia Tech. Their software platform monitors mission-critical assets in the energy, manufacturing and telco industries. The platform provides automated decision making to continuously optimize operational capacity and reduce asset support costs. With a deep reach into operations, their deployments are able to provide industry best ROIs.
Andrew Lewis, DecisionIQ’s CEO, credits the program with providing the guidance necessary to secure a master service agreement for platform deployment into Coke’s field service network on the back of a successful pilot. On top of their Coca-Cola contract, DecisionIQ is developing a pilot with a second corporation in the program. What would have taken a year of relationship development was reduced to a few months with The Bridge program.
“This is an enabling innovation program for both the startups and corporate sponsors. It is not a sell – it is a motivated, team oriented discovery to find a high-payoff connection between startup innovation and enterprise objectives.” – Andrew Lewis, CEO of DecisionIQ
Streem + Cox
This greentech company noninvasively monitors water usage via computer hardware and software systems. As a result of the program, Streem landed a pilot monitoring Cox’s Manheim car auction space in Atlanta. Cox was interested in how much water they use in vehicle preparation for the auction and Streem provided the needed advanced metering infrastructure. This information can be used in managing load-reduction programs and forecasting to optimize water procurement procedures.
In addition, Streem is developing a relationship with IHG’s Green Engage system. The hotel group has a 2013-2017 target to reduce water consumption by 12% per occupied room in water-stressed areas and are working with industry peers in the Hotel Water Measurement Initiative to develop a common methodology to measure and report on water consumption across the hotel industry.
“The exposure to different enterprise customers helped refine our product. We realized we needed a core message for two different customer types. It has caused us to look at our business opportunities differently and expand our B2B capabilities. I wish The Bridge program had been available to us when we originally launched.” – Jeff Leaders, Founder of Streem
EngageCX + Coca-Cola
EngageCX is a real-time engagement product for brands looking to create memorable experiences in a next-generation store or venue. The platform can do things like track concert goers behavior patterns or alert retail associates to a loyal customer walking into the store.
EngageCX is now working with Coke McDonald’s team and will be running a Coke-sponsored pilot on several McDonald’s locations.
“We took our solution, did homework on each business and came up with our own idea for how we could partner. Then we presented a branded use case to each company – showcasing ourselves as a solution that could be used by their business today. The Bridge gave us the opportunity to test our new go to market strategy and sharpen our message and approach with a captive audience of engaged enterprise customers.” – David Trice, Co-Founder and Chief Executive Officer of EngageCX
THE RESULTS – INTERNAL PROOF-OF-CONCEPTS
Five proof-of-concept projects sprung up between The Bridge Community’s startups and enterprises. A proof-of-concept is run to prove the feasibility of a solution or the feasibility of a critical aspect of a solution before progressing to a pilot.
Both DecisionIQ (mentioned above) and Gimme Vending (mentioned below) have entered into exploratory relationships with The Bridge program enterprises that can not be elaborated on at this time.
Authomate + Cox, The Weather Channel, and Capgemini
Authomate is a security startup focused on removing the pain of passwords by combating credential theft and user fatigue while helping manage security costs, providing a user-friendly interface, and mitigating vulnerability risks. They are currently working with Cox’s IT security team, developing a use case with The Weather Channel, and tackling futuristic concerns with Capgemini.
“The Bridge program offered an immediate champion inside each of the companies. This accelerated us to the right people and provided better information around needs and requirements, allowing us to tailor our message. In addition, it gave startup companies a seat at the table, where it would have been hard to do without having inertia and support from the program.” – Jeff Schmidt, President & CEO of Authomate
THE HALO EFFECT
The commercialization program has created contagious momentum beyond internal projects. Many participants attribute the wins described below to the program’s lessons and the vote of confidence created by their association with The Bridge community.
THE HALO EFFECT – STARTUP & ENTERPRISE RELATIONSHIPS
During the program startups secured external pilots and proof-of-concepts, saw significant growth in their overall enterprise pipeline and month over month revenue, raised venture capital investments, made new hires, and experienced other noteworthy achievements such as winning competitions and being acquired. Startups are now top of mind for enterprise representatives and the relationships continue to deepen and widen via referrals and ongoing engagements.
FIXD + A Dealership Group & A Shop Group
FIXD helps repair shops better retain their customers via a device that plugs into their car to help drivers better understand and stay on top of their car maintenance needs. During the program FIXD landed two pilots with a dealership and a shop group, each agreeing to test the platform for four to six months. John Gattuso, the Co-Founder & CEO of FIXD, credits The Bridge’s negotiations and marketing curriculum with helping their team of engineers craft the messaging necessary to make their external pilots a success.
Mogean is a data science startup. Their patent-pending mobile location data collection and analytics technology enables companies to build relevant interactions based on contextual behavior patterns. Nate Halsey, Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder of Mogean, attributes The Bridge with teaching them that their key enterprise audience is marketing departments, and not the IT departments they had focused on as an initial entry point. Halfway through the program they took that knowledge and went out to enterprises poised to be a great fit. Mogean is now discussing a pilot with a company they were exposed to via a relationship with a Bridge enterprise.
“The storytelling and brand development curriculum changed the way we describe our business and it was where we learned the most about ourselves in the program. As technical founders we are engineers and scientists, not natural marketers or salespeople. Learning how to tell our story has been invaluable.” – Nate Halsey Chief Revenue Officer and Co-Founder, Mogean
In addition to quietly developing a proof-of-concept with one of The Bridge enterprises, Gimme Vending builds mobility and inventory tracking tools for unattended retail environments. This start-up makes a device that transmits vending machine data to the cloud for more efficient inventory management and product merchandising analytics. Gimme’s award-winning and patented plug-and-play solution replaces legacy handhelds to deliver valuable data, providing operators with better cash and inventory accountability and machine state data, synchronizing or hand-keying.
“We were very excited about The Bridge because of the opportunities and big business networking it provided us as a startup. We especially loved learning from Coke and gaining insights into their bottler investment group, fleet management, and marketing support. It was incredible to get a multi disciplinary view of the inner workings of the company.” – Cory Hewett, CEO and Co-Founder Gimme
TEQ Charging + 5 Hotels
By capitalizing on a cleantech angle, this electric vehicle charging startup landed their first five pilots installing charging sites at hotels (including four large chain hotels and one boutique hotel). With these fully paying pilots TEQ Charging will no longer be a pre-revenue startup by the end of the year. The hotels are engaging TEQ to test their technology and messaging on their patrons in an effort to reduce the cost of charging by 90% and increase the charging capacity of each power line by 4-6x.
“TEQ Charging’s ability to create a prototype in a dynamic industry is outstanding. They really have a lot of knowledge in this space. Cox helped TEQ tweak their business model and focus in on a software solution.” – James Lewis, Strategy & Investments at Cox Enterprises
Converge helps companies connect with customers from their digital marketing activity all the way to in-store retail purchases. The marketing platform team had indirect relationships with two of the participating enterprises, driving their decision to take part in the program. Now they are maintaining strong relationships with many more of the participating companies.
“Typically when you get introduced at a company you’ll get connected at one very particular point, but probably not the right department and they might not know where to refer you internally. Instead The Bridge gives a 30,000 foot view showing us the places to plug in and connect to. Finally we would meet with the first person who had a need for us, not the first person who would met with us.” – Rob Kischuk, CEO & Founder at Converge
Enterprises achieved new levels of employee engagement, compared best practices with peers through the program, and refined their approach to vetting and engaging startups.
THE HALO EFFECT – STARTUP GROWTH & RECOGNITION
Since April, 12 2016, The Bridge Community:Atlanta’s 2016 startup cohort collectively:
- Hired 32 new employees
- Raised $2.9M in venture capital funding
- Increased month over month revenue by 150% on average
Highlights of other growth opportunities that the startups experienced during their time in the program:
- Storj started and concluded a partnership with the Heroku developer platform which has over a million users.
- Streem filed new patents based on some of the product features they discovered could be applicable to enterprise customers. Also, they were acquired in the fall by a global plumbing company.
- Authomate issued a second patent, had three patents pending that moved forward, and trademarked their solution. They also garnered coverage by Gartner which spurred a continuing relationship with this world leading information technology research and advisory company. In addition, they closed a $125K deal with New York City’s Department of Health and Mental Hygiene as well as landing a contract with Christophe’s To Go, a local foodservice delivery company in Atlanta.
- Being invited to multiple industry events and showcases including CyberLaunch, CyberCon, and the Advanced Technology Development Center’s annual showcase. Each event spawning an opportunity to work on a use case inside five non-Bridge enterprises.
- Converge engaged in a partnership with LiveRamp, an identity resolution provider offering data onboarding. They tie marketing data back to real people across 1st, 2nd, or 3rd party digital and offline data silos and activate people data anywhere it’s needed.
- Earlier this year Mogean beat 180 other startups in an Internet of Things/IoT technology competition sponsored by Verizon & Georgia Tech and hired their first CEO, Matt Reilly, to lead the company after a year long search.
- Gimme Vending was named ‘Pros to Know’ & ‘Best Product’ in 2016 by Vending Market Watch.
- TEQ Charging secured Envirospark Energy Solution as a partner, filed a utility patent, and was accepted into the inaugural TechStars Internet of Things Class in New York City – the first program that Techstars has done with a group of industry partners instead of a single large corporation.
THE HALO EFFECT – COMMUNITY BUILDING
The Bridge Community:Atlanta coalesced community stakeholders prior to formally launching the program by encouraging them to reach out across the entire ecosystem in order to cultivate a well-balanced first cohort. Venture capital firms, tech publications, professional technology associations, coworking spaces, accelerators, and startup service providers all rallied together to source participants around the common cause of invigorating both the enterprise and startup communities. In particular The Metro Atlanta Chamber of Commerce, Atlanta Tech Village, Advanced Technology Development Center, Hypepotamus and Flashpoint went above and beyond to help.
“Fortune 500’s are looking at what innovation means for their company and how they can cultivate it from the startup community. The Bridge gives these large businesses not only the opportunity to get to know the startups, but also access to the broader network of startups in The Bridge program.” – Hillery Champagne, Director of Mobility Ecosystem Expansion at the Chamber of Commerce
As a result of The Bridge Community, Atlanta’s broader startup ecosystem is left with better educated and experienced citizens, new portfolio projects, job and revenue growth, and exposure for local companies and talent.
PLAN FOR 2017
The Bridge Community:Atlanta is considering an expansion in 2017, adding new areas of focus like FinTech, Smart Cities and Consumer Engagement – to mirror the current strengths of these verticals in Atlanta.
“This year exceeded our expectations. The Bridge Community has enabled Coca-Cola to partner with both startups and other corporations in a new way. We are excited at the potential to grow this unique collaborative program into 2017 and beyond.” – Anthony Newstead Glb Grp Director Emerging Technologies & Strategic Innovation
Cox is already preparing for the next cohort by surveying all of their internal branches including strategy, business, and technology. The conglomerate is canvassing to find out which new problems or projects each would tackle if they could essentially extend their team by working with startups.
Applications for startups to participate in the 2017 cohort will open in February and the next round of corporate citizens are being cultivated now. Corporations looking to bring innovation into their organization should reach out to Carie Davis (firstname.lastname@example.org), Managing Director of The Bridge Community:Atlanta program to discuss details.
“The Bridge came into Atlanta’s fertile business ecosystem to create more inroads for startups and more ways for Coca-Cola to bring innovative solutions to their core business challenges. We have taken tried and true methodology created by Coca-Cola and expanded it to an entire ecosystem in Atlanta, helping corporations learn from each other and remain competitive while helping startups grow.” – Carie Davis (email@example.com), Managing Director of The Bridge Community:Atlanta