Co-Created is a venture studio headquartered in New York City. The firm has six full-time employees and over 150 entrepreneurs-in-residence in its network. It was spun out of Prehype, and founded in 2011. It helps corporate partners to create internal and external ventures.
We spoke with Ron J. Williams, Partner at Co-Created, to better understand the firm, as part of our venture studios initiative. He shared the firm’s collaboration model, venture funding structure, ventures the studio has built, and more.
Who They Work With
Williams said Co-Created works across a variety of industries, but that some of its best successes have come from working with Global 1000 companies.
He said Co-Created has a strong track record for working with partners in heavily regulated industries, like financial services, healthcare, and insurance.
For Williams and Co-Created, the organization’s priorities are also important — there has to be buy-in from leadership and a desire to create a new venture.
“We’re looking for folks who, at some level, have pretty clear sponsorship. … [And] they’re tackling ambitious challenges, real problems,” he said.
Co-Created has worked with Citi, Diageo, and Novozymes, among other corporations.
Co-Created has the capability to create both internal and external corporate ventures, and Williams said it does a healthy amount of both to suit its partners’ needs in the best way possible.
He said Co-Created seeks to help its partners stand up ventures that offer repeatable processes and real value.
“Based on all the work that we’ve done across 60 plus partners and almost 100 ventures, we’ve actually helped our partners stand up and customize repeatable processes that can become innovation capabilities they can run themselves,” Williams said.
Co-Created has built Asasha, a new opportunity for direct-to-consumer telehealth, with Pfizer Australia; and Onward, an app to help separated co-parents manage shared expenses for their children, among other ventures.
Co-Created has the capabilities to support corporate partners across a range of initiatives, from venture building and innovation capability creation to small-scale special projects and “build, buy or invest” advisory.
For its venture building model, Co-Created has a defined process for engaging with corporate partners, which starts with shaping a thesis about strategies and approaches to determine how best to come for market share.
“That’s phase one — how do you take loose strategy and frame it in a way that that feels actionable?” Williams said.
From there, Co-Created helps its partners to identify opportunities, discern how large the opportunity is and how much it will cost a partner to get to the desired outcome, and determine a specific segment of a market the project should be targeting.
“If you aren’t solving the right problem for the right customer, you might build something amazing, [but] it might not have the commercial growth or innovation impact that you’re looking for,” Williams said.
But the customer isn’t the only one who has to buy in, Williams said. There has to be mutual fit among the product, the market, and the franchise. Internal buy in matters as much as customer desires do; otherwise, a viable idea could easily be killed.
Once Co-Created has helped its partner understand the opportunity and market, and ensured the fit is there all around, it begins to build the venture alongside the corporation or recommends another approach to the partner.
Williams said Co-Created primarily uses a fee-for-service model.
While it has explored optionality in some of its previous ventures, the majority of its partners start with a fee-for-service model.
“Most top-of-funnel, shorter engagements that [center] around opportunity shaping, thesis development, [etc.] could start around 50 to 100k, from a pricing perspective,” he said.
Williams said in the early stages of the process, a variety of corporate leaders are involved with the Co-Created team.
Once the venture building actually begins, though, the team that works on the venture directly becomes significantly smaller. He said one Co-Created partner works with at least two of its network’s entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIRs) to begin building the venture, alongside a bench of subject matter experts (SMEs), who may help along the way if needed.
Williams said Co-Created tailors the EIR selection directly to each engagement.
“[We] hand pick those individuals, based upon their breadth of experience that’s relevant either to the concept itself or the market in which we’re working. In some cases, life stage or technology relevance is important,” he said.
What’s the Key Question Corporate Leaders Should Ask Before Partnering with a Venture Studio?
Williams said corporate leaders should ask themselves, “What is the opportunity cost of not investing in solving your biggest worry [or] problem … and what do you stand to gain if you do?”
He said that in any venture building engagement, a corporation should stand to gain capital and experience from the investment it made.
“The ROI on that [investment] should be massive … whether it’s getting culture right; getting your capabilities right; or specifically identifying, exploring, validating, and building world-class new ventures,” Williams said. “More importantly, it should have a massive impact on your business.”