Can Corporations Be Taught to Innovate Like Startups?


Can a big, established company still innovate like low-budget makers and garage inventors?

In their new book, Hypershift, Andre Marquis and Manav Subodh share how big companies can tap the innovation secrets of Berkeley-Haas startups to enter new markets, establish brand leadership, and unlock value.

“We’re seeing that the same processes we use for startups here can be applied to corporate innovation if companies are willing to take risks and “hypershift” development,” says Marquis, MBA 96, the executive director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship, who co-wrote Hypershift with Subodh, a senior fellow at the Lester Center and co-founder of A Million for A Billion (1M1B).
Hypershift is a behind-the-scenes project that evolved during last year’s Intel Make it Wearable Challenge, which drew 10 teams of entrepreneurs from around the world to Berkeley-Haas in a high-stakes competition for $1.3 million in prize money.

The competition was anchored by an intensive incubation process run out of the Berkeley-Haas Lester Center for Entrepreneurship.

Subodh, a former global corporate affairs manager at Intel, was a partner in running the Berkeley-Haas accelerator program, designed to showcase how a large company like Intel could leverage a startup ecosystem to enter a new market like wearables. “Hypershift is a guide on how giant corporations can co-create with makers, garage inventors, business leaders, and entrepreneurs to innovate and even create new industries,” Subodh says.

The end result was the rapid creation of products ranging from a flying camera to a 3D-printed prosthetic hand to a smart bed for premature babies.

Hypershift draws insights from Berkeley-Haas entrepreneurial methods, including Lecturer Steve Blank’s Lean LaunchPad framework and Henry Chesbrough’s Open Innovation model.

Lean LaunchPad is a training program that focuses entrepreneurs on developing business models, rather than business plans, and on iterating their models quickly by getting out if the building, interviewing customers, and using customer feedback. Open Innovation calls for companies to think beyond their products and move outside of their own four walls to innovate.

Added to that is what Marquis calls the Lester Center’s “secret sauce,” or the lean startup model that teaches entrepreneurs how to test ideas quickly to determine whether they have a scalable business model — without making a significant time or financial investment.

“The goal of an accelerator is to mimic the pressures, uncertainties, and challenges of an actual startup,” Marquis writes. “Find a scalable success or quickly move on to the next business opportunity.” The book covers everything from how to recruit entrepreneur teams to working across time zones to avoiding common product problems.  These are methods the Lester Center team is bringing to both large corporations and governments, including the Government of India’s national Make in India campaign.

Marquis noted that Hypershift was a group effort that includes chapters from Mark Searle, a senior fellow at the Lester Center, who writes about the impact of mentoring, and Ken Singer, managing director of the Center for Entrepreneurship and Technology (CET) at UC Berkeley, who covers product development.

Download the first chapter of Hypershift here.