How can we design a program in which a large company collaborates with startups to create new business value over just a few weeks? This was the question Cisco asked us, but with an additional challenge thrown in: include a rapid ideation stage during VivaTech, the giant tech event in Paris. 


We sought to understand the needs of three main stakeholder groups: our client Cisco, a set of 32 startups, and Cisco's partners. The goal was to create a strategy to break down the barriers among these groups and get them to work together to solve real business problems.  For this we created the "Tri-Creation" method.


We lead the sourcing of 32 startups from an original list of 70+ and facilitated Tri-Creation sessions. The end result was 22 new prototypes, several working products, and real live business cases. Combined with Cisco team's amazing technological expertise, our process brought added value to all stakeholders involved. 


What does a program that adds value to three different stakeholders and delivers new product ideas in a short time look like?





Creating New Partnerships to Drive Value for All Sides 

Cisco is an expert in innovation, and as one of the world's leading tech companies, it understands better than most why open innovation is the way of the future. In an effort to ensure the best way to work with startups, Cisco came to us with a unique challenge: creating an accelerator program that is centered around the bustling VivaTech conference and yet remains focused on results.


At Stringcan, we start every project with a blank page; we tailor our ideas to your problem so it can fit your specific needs. Usually this means starting with pointed questions that get to the heart of the problem: What does value look like for startups and how does this differ from Cisco's expectations for the accelerator? How can we facilitate three-way business relationships? Can we get teams to come together during a two-day conference and produce something actually innovative?


"Working with startups has become a trend for major companies, but it doesn't always translate into meaningful relationships. It's rare to find a program that understands all sides and really creates value."  

IoT for Business Startup Participant



Tri-Creation in Just a Few Weeks

We started by categorizing participants into three main categories and mapping incentives and objectives:

(1) Cisco - Cisco builds tech solutions for its partners. It knows that startups bring agility in terms of business models and technologies. 

(2) Cisco partners - Cisco's corporate clients came with real business problems. They worked together with Cisco and the startups to create solutions.  

(3) Startups - Our team worked hand in hand with Cisco's team to source startups and narrowed down an original list of 70+ to 32. Startups bring breakthrough technologies and incredible flexibility. But they also know the resources and expertise of large companies can help them get to the next level. 


Based on our program design processes and in collaboration with Cisco, we created a program to occur in three stages. The pre-event stage involved working with startups and partners to prep all sides on three business challenges: smart buildings, retail, and supply chain. The next two stages made innovation happen. 



11 new business integrations. In 6 weeks.

We found that Tri-Creation over such a short period is challenging. But with a careful strategy focused on real value it can be accomplished. 


The accelerator's most intense phase occurred over just 48 hours, during VivaTech. Cisco and Stringcan led all stakeholders through a Tri-Creation Primer, facilitated collaboration sessions, coached startups on pitches, and had a jury select 11 startup prototypes focused on client needs to move into the post-acceleration phase. This latter phase followed up on this work, with the aim of establishing long-term relationships between the best prototypes and Cisco. 

At the end of the day, this meant 22 new prototypes and business relationships created, and satisfied stakeholders on all sides. Cisco was able to create 11 new products in cooperation with its partners and the startups involved, Cisco partners had solutions to their business problems, and the startups gained a lot in terms of expertise, thinking about their product in new ways and potential business opportunities. 

Most of the participants we spoke to were amazed at how quickly these relationships with Cisco could be turned into business value. Indeed, it required an in-depth knowledge of how innovation works, and a willingness to look at the program from the perspectives of all stakeholders involved.

Cisco wasn't just at VivaTech for show. This was actual innovation. And that means new business cases, products, and revenue. 




Want to understand how you can drive real value with startups? 

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