Innovation Xchange might just be the biggest #StartupCincy event you’ve never heard of, and for good reason. When Cintrifuse launched the program four years ago — and in the three iterations since — it’s been an invitation-only matchmaking event for BigCos and startups.
“Cintrifuse saw an opportunity to draw startups from coastal ecosystems to Cincinnati to help BigCos address their challenges,” says Eric Weissmann, director of marketing at Cintrifuse. “We worked with the local CIO roundtable to find out what problems their companies struggled with, which platforms interested them and what technologies they wanted to learn more about.”
Based on what Cintrifuse gleaned from those meetings, it grouped those challenges into segments and put a call out to its network, including not only startups based in Cincinnati, but also those in the portfolios of its investment funds and other startup ecosystems.
The 70 responses Cintrifuse received for the inaugural event were curated down to about 24 companies that came to Cincinnati to pitch the BigCos on their companies and solutions.
“IX is the physical manifestation of the Cintrifuse purpose,” Weissmann says. “Encouraging BigCo innovation by working with startups; not acquiring them, but working with them as partners and vendors.”
The IX event is not a fancy RFP process or a hackathon weekend. BigCos present focused problems in areas like the internet of things, employee engagement or workforce management. Startups with existing products that offer solutions pitch directly to these potential partners and clients, hopefully resulting in new business.
“Participating in IX is a big deal for startups,” Weissmann says. “Cintrifuse is acting as the business development rep, vetting the briefs from BigCos to ensure they have resources to spend and project management systems to run a partnership. The startups do the rest.”
Although the first two IX events were extremely successful and resulted in dozens of pilot partnerships and projects, Cintrifuse saw room for improvement.
“We found that BigCos need help defining their problems and learning how to work with new vendors,” Weissmann says. “Last year, we held workshops for the BigCos to think through the challenges where they needed solutions and put together innovation briefs for startups to address. We also added a keynote speaker to talk about innovation and set the stage for the pitches.”
For the 2017 IX event, tickets to the morning program will be available to the public. It will feature keynote speaker Jeremiah Owyang, founder of Crowd Companies, followed by a number of breakout sessions. Owyang, an expert on corporate innovation and disruptive technologies, will speak on adaptive business models and his recent white paper.
“Attending IX will be a great opportunity for startups interested in enterprise sales to see how other similar companies are operating,” Weissman says. “The thought leadership session will also help venture capital and BigCos see what’s coming on the radar and it could serve as a sounding board or validation tool for their investments.”
Tickets for the June 22 IX event will go on sale May 22.