In our recent Master Class on working with startups, Jelena Joffe Weil and Peter Gardner share how Amazon has tapped into the startup ecosystem. During the call, the pair explore:

  • Rapid Open Innovation: How to create a repeatable and scalable process for innovation
  • Partner Networks & Connections: How to identify the best potential partners and effectively manage them to achieve shared outcomes
  • Collaboration: How to overcome internal barriers to innovation and help teams work more effectively together.

Weil is Amazon Web Services’ (AWS) Worldwide Startup Lead for the Rapid Open Innovation and AWS Connections programs. Peter Gardner is the CEO and founder of Startgrid, one of Innovation Leader’s strategic partners.

Two highlights from the conversation follow.

The Importance of Enterprise Innovation

Peter Gardner: We were talking about a report that came out from BCG [Boston Consulting Group] just this month — their annual Most Innovative Companies Report… They interviewed 1,500 senior innovation execs at large organizations around the world, multiple industries. And 75 percent of those respondents said that innovation was a top three priority for their organization — and that was actually up 10 percent over last year. And it observed that the top 50 most innovative companies in the world outperform the rest of the pool by…17 percent in terms of creating shareholder value. 

But the bad news was that they did a diagnostic as part of this survey, and found that only 20 percent…achieve a return on innovation investment, meaning a well-tuned innovation system can transform good intentions into real value. So, there was this more than 50 percent gap between the desire to innovate and being prepared to do well.

Jelena Joffe Weil: We actually see that this data is very consistent with other research in our own observations from conversations with over 100 enterprise customers around wanting to innovate through external ecosystems — what we call open methods of innovation. So, not just trying to work on the internal R&D and product development, but also find partners who might have the best capabilities for that specific need that [we] have. And we see that over 80 percent of enterprises, for example, already find startup innovation as mission critical or important. They are already actively engaged with startups.

How AWS Works with Startups

Jelena Joffe Weil: Most of the startups in the world currently build on top of AWS, and I think of it as a great privilege that comes with even greater responsibility. So that drives that customer obsession in our team towards startups… Essentially, where we started was thinking about the different challenges that startups have — be it with technology questions, or gaining access to capital or mentorship — and working backwards from them to develop programs that are meaningful. That’s essentially how our team started.

If we work backwards from the enterprise needs, we need to build that trust and understand the challenge, then find the right matching partner. And for the startups, the value is that we bring to them only the qualified opportunities.