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5 Ways to Collaborate with Startups

“Way back” in 2011 Marc Andreesen proclaimed that, “Software is eating the world”. There are examples in every industry of incumbents swallowed up by software delivered as online service. Innovative companies look for customer problems to solve in entirely new ways. Today companies need to both innovate in their core business to grow market share and also explore and test new markets and disruptive technologies. One of the best ways to test new markets and technology is to collaborate with startups within an innovation ecosystem, as startups naturally approach customer problems with a unique perspective and specific use cases in mind.

We have increased the pace of innovation by taking a collaborative approach.

As our CEO Jean-Pascal Tricoire has said, “No company can work in a silo to advance real change.” We work hand in hand with entrepreneurs, technology partners, startups, partners, and more to accelerate the development of new business models and technology.

Startup partnerships: key to an innovation ecosystem

Building an innovation ecosystem means working with a large portfolio of companies and partners. We work with venture capitalists, customers, partners, and collaborate with startups to form and scale new businesses. Entrepreneurs have a strong vision, enjoy risk, and are nimble enough to pivot quickly, making them ideal partners to test new technology or business models.

5 ways we collaborate with startups:

1. Invest

Though our Innovation at the Edge investment arm SE Ventures, we have invested in 11 companies and 6 funds, with portfolio companies such as Autogrid, which develops software for a distributed energy world, and Sense, which develops simple energy monitors that use machine learning to recognize loads and enable homeowners to increase energy efficiency. SE Ventures looks for companies where we can provide more than capital and support entrepreneurs through access to expertise, customers, or channels.

2. Incubate

Innovating at the edge also means empowering employees and entrepreneurs to bring to life their bold ideas with high-growth potential. We incubate companies across the world through incubator partners. Incubated companies such as Clipsal Solar provide residential solar solutions in Australia, and eIQ Mobility provides electric vehicles solutions for fleets. We are also working with EDB in Singapore to build up to four Singapore-based companies with global growth potential. Incubated companies are given the resources needed and operate both collaboratively and independently to remain agile.

3. Partner

Building an innovation ecosystem requires partnering with a lot of companies, and we have more than 200 partnerships with startups. From proof of concepts, to reseller agreements or co-innovation projects, we work closely with startups to test and scale their businesses. For instance, we have partnered with Claroty, an industrial cybersecurity platform, to enhance the protection of our connected products and edge control offerings within the EcoStruxure™ architecture.

4. Orchestrate

Driving world-class innovation takes an open business platform to empower an ecosystem of experts across every burning digital and IoT topic to elevate business solutions. That is the goal of the collaborative Schneider Electric Exchange ecosystem, where the win/win includes market and geographic reach for startups, secure access to data sets for developers, technical tools for system integrators, new ways to solve customer problems for Schneider, and more. Innovation partner QMerit provides the cloud-based, supply chain solution that enables Exchange’s bid management and service delivery model. And in the Digital Marketplace itself, the startup Predictive Layer, for example, offers AI engines that integrate power signal and weather data into its forecasting models to enable end users such as commercial facilities to anticipate normal behavior and detect changes in energy patterns and usage.

5. Venture

We also partner with industry-leading companies to create new startups. For example, together with The Carlyle Group, we launched AlphaStruxure to deliver large infrastructure projects such as airports and seaports that are more reliable and sustainable for communities. AlphaStruxure marries Carlyle’s investment track record with Schneider Electric’s global leadership in energy management and automation technology innovation to reduce energy usage and operating expenses, increase resilience and sustainability, and extend asset life of public infrastructure.

Building an innovation eco-system with startups

In addition to innovating in our core business, partnering with external companies and startups allows us to take risks and leverage the creativity and skills of the world outside Schneider Electric to help us innovate for tomorrow.

But make no mistake, these relationships are often complicated and take work to ensure they are mutually beneficial. Corporations need to provide startups with the resources, expertise, and channels they need, but also provide enough distance so the startup can remain agile. Long-term commitment, strong governance, and clear objectives and goals ensure a successful corporate startup relationship.

We are committed to creating an innovation ecosystem with startups and partners to help move the entire industry forward towards a new energy landscape.

Learn more about our Innovation at the Edge program.

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