Back to all articles
By Pete McConnell, Commtract Founder and Executive Chairman who serialises his start-up adventures monthly in the Australian Financial Review.
A clear theme emerging from last week’s Financial Review Innovation Summit was businesses’ road-to-Damascus-like conversion when it comes to their approach to start-ups.
Five years ago, it was something akin to applauding the barbarians at the gate.
Senior executives regurgitated insights from Harvard Business Review articles while ambitious young entrepreneurs destroyed their revenue lines and usurped their profit margins.
Often they even opened the gates; providing mentoring, guidance and cheap rent to the young entrepreneurs who would soon become their nemeses.
But as they say in the classics, fool me once shame on you, fool me twice shame on me.
It seems that many big businesses have finally come to the party and are either partnering, parroting or partaking in the best young technology companies.
Let me start with the partnering. Best in class must be Qantas. As a frequent flyer I can attest that its integration of Uber and Airbnb into its travel offering is a clear win for customers.
It provides a door-to-door travel solution while aligning Qantas with two of the fastest growing and slickest brands in the business.
A credible mention also goes to Wesfarmers, with the likes of Bunnings and Coles now partnering with Airtasker to help with DIY furniture and home deliveries.
Perhaps this is the impact of having a genuine entrepreneur in Paul Bassat on the board.
Then there are those who have parroted start-ups, particularly by pursing the primacy of user experience in digital design.
In this category I cannot go past the new Macquarie Bank app. It’s so simple, clean and cleverly designed I can literally handle my banking one-handed while navigating public transport.
Let me give it the highest praise by saying it’s not what I expect from a big Australian bank.
And another mention for Qantas. I know it sounds like I am angling for lounge access, but the app that allows me to check in, select a seat and pick a flick all en-route to the airport is next level.
And finally, to those partaking. By this I mean companies clever enough to understand that if you can’t beat them, then buy them.
At the Summit, James Orchard from IAG spoke superbly about its decision to take a stake in Airtasker.
Not only does it shape IAG’s understanding of the shared economy’s implications for insurance, but small tasks can be the basis of risk mitigation. Think clean gutters and bushfires.
However, this is not to say all have seen the innovation light. I remain staggered at the number of businesses that cling to revenue lines regardless of the impact on customer experience.
Fresh back from holidays it’s no surprise that I have the good burghers of the hotel industry firmly in my sights. These guys seem determined to be the dinosaurs of digital.
I live in a world where I can access on-demand television, use Deliveroo to have my favourite meal delivered to my door and Telstra just launched an unlimited data offer.
Yet top-tier hotels are still boasting about a limited movie channel offer, an in-room service menu with all of five items and 30 minutes of free Wi-Fi.
For these folks, the barbarians are at the gates and the sabre rattling is getting louder. How long can they hold on to the past before the walls finally cave in?
The original article was published here by the Australian Financial Review on 9/8/2018.
Image via Shutterstock
Commtract is Australia & New Zealand's first marketplace and community for professional communicators.