The phenomenon of big brands working increasingly with smaller companies is a trend that’s not slowing down.
In fact, we can no longer call it a trend, or a thing that companies do to hang with the cool kids — but a survival mechanism. Corporations are fast learning that at this rate of disruption, they can no longer afford NOT to entrench ourselves with those who do disruption best: startups.
As Director of Future Technology for Jaguar Land Rover, one of my key focus areas is startup collaboration as a necessary way to bring the future into the present. At CES in January I presented not simply our own latest open-source technology (although of course that was present) but the first companies we would be working with as part of Jaguar Land Rover’s new 10-year Tech Incubator.
The Jaguar Land Rover Tech Incubator will encourage, promote, and support early-stage technology (mostly software, but not as a rule) whose products can be integrated into a car environment – and potentially instigate the next wave of connected car technology.
On stage, I introduced our three inaugural incubator companies, including BabyBit – a smart baby monitoring system that one wouldn’t immediately place into the automotive category. The Tech Incubator, and more broadly Jaguar Land Rover, is exploring and breaking the traditional boundaries of what a connected car can do. BabyBit is a prime example, with a potential car integration meaning real-time data around caretaker handoffs and the health of safety of one’s child.
We announced Urban.Systems, a new company that provides integrated, open infrastructure support for electric vehicles. This company also sits outside the norm of a singular automotive software product, and looks at the entire system around the future of electric vehicles – what infrastructure needs to be in place for any product to work? What types of public-private partnerships must be instituted, or management enabled? It is this holistic thinking that brands must be thinking about ahead of the curve, in tandem with the technologies they are building.
And finally, we introduced ParkiT – a company that does fall into the automotive category, and which provides camera-based, real-time parking data. The ingenious technology was developed by a team of Rice University grads – talent which may have been overlooked in a traditional corporate paradigm.
In the next few weeks we will be announcing the second round of companies joining the incubator.
We are lucky to help these company grow through our six-month immersive program in our new Portland, Oregon, state-of-the-art facility, where they’ll receive comprehensive support – including financing, space, and mentorship – along with Jaguar Land Rover engineering, UX, and design talent. In turn, we receive access to a diverse set of technologies making a better experience for our customers.
Production cycles have their limitations. There’s only so much a team, or a division, or a company can do in a specific period of time. Not only can startups increase the speed of learning by exponential margins, but they can offer the kind of wild creativity and diversity in thought that allows for the big breakthroughs.
Creativity amounts to nothing, though, without the health of the company propagating it. In return for fresh thinking and new innovations, a large brand can support the health and growth of small companies. With a program like an incubator, startups can obtain financing, access to talent and networks, and other resources and support they might lack without the backing, collaboration, and association of a larger institution.
It’s win-win when big brands and startups work together – and this collaborative mindset is not just exciting, it is vital to our company’s future.
Director of Future Technology