U+, a venture builder focused on corporate collaboration with Global 1000 companies, was founded in October 2009 by CEO Jan Beránek. It has 120 employees, who are located in 12 different countries and represent 24 different nationalities. The team works 100 percent remotely.
Lisa Rippington, Director of Revenue Operations at U+, spoke with us to share U+’s collaboration model, its successful corporate partnerships, and a key question corporate leaders need to ask before partnering with a venture builder. This is part of our venture studio initiative.
Who They Work With
Rippington said U+’s primary targets for venture building partners are Global 1000 companies. She said many of those companies partner with U+ because it is able to help corporations with all steps of the venture building process.
“We do everything — from ideation all the way through go to market and commercialization. … We are committed to that last mile. Instead of just setting everything up, and then handing it back and saying, ‘Okay, here’s your playbook. Off you go,’ we actually implement the playbook and put the staff on site and build the working organization so that you have a viable business entity under your corporate umbrella,” Rippington said.
U+ has partnered with corporations like T Mobile, Eurowag, Bridgestone, the Policaro Group, and more.
Rippington said the U+ venture building process takes about four months, which is much quicker than a corporation could build an idea itself, she said.
“[Corporations are] very structured — cross your t’s, dot your i’s. Startups are a bit like ‘Do what’s got to be done to get it done as quickly as possible,'” Rippington said. “We use our agile teams [to] implement innovation, and we do it quickly.”
U+ has launched Carvago, a database that allows online car purchases across country borders, with European Auto Group; Zonky, an investment lending platform, with Homecredit; and other ventures.
Rippington said U+ works closely with its corporate partners to define what they are looking to get out of the project. Once a statement of work has been agreed to, U+ then proceeds by assigning a team lead to the project. From there, she said, the team lead builds out the team. Internally, the team meets at least daily to gauge progress and consider potential roadblocks. The team meets with the partner at least once a week to keep open lines of communication. She said the process typically is fast paced.
“What we try to do is to support those internal entities in a corporation to be able to innovate in what we call a safe space — trying new things, open to suggestions. Nothing’s just in a box that you check,” she said.
Rippington said generally, corporate partners come to U+ with a project and pay for the project with a fee-for-service model.
She said whether U+ takes equity in a venture varies from project to project, but that it usually does not.
“With a startup mentality, there isn’t a hard and fast rule for anything,” Rippington said.
Rippington said that when a venture is being built, U+ assigns a team lead to the project.
She said when U+ hires team members for a venture, it is often looking for people who are part of the entrepreneurial and startup community. The team varies by project, and U+ hires talent from all around the world.
“We recruit globally. We recruit for talent, first, not location. It depends on the skill sets required,” Rippington said. “There’s always a team lead, who has expertise in whatever we’re trying to accomplish, and they build their team from there.”
What’s the Key Question a Corporate Leader Should Ask Before Partnering with a Venture Studio?
“I think one of the most important things to ask the [studio] that you’re looking to work with is if they understand the startup mentality,” Rippington said.
She explained that corporations work very differently from the startup model and that without having strong roots in the startup world, it might be difficult to move the project forward.
“That’s really what [partners] are looking for — [they’re] looking to fill a void of the skill set they don’t already have internally. Is the company that they’re wanting to align with able to share that expertise and that knowledge and support that level of growth?” Rippington said.