Are East Coast companies innovative enough? Some early data suggests there may be room for improvement.

A recent analysis by Atlantic Canadian startup news site Entrevestor reviewed job postings for tech developers in Atlantic Canada in the first quarter of 2018. Specifically, Entrevestor looked at postings for roles that focused on leading technologies such as languages like Python, JSON or R, and methods like RESTful, which are used in artificial intelligence, big data and blockchain.

The findings – 23 percent of roles mentioned leading technologies and, of those, 64 percent were roles in startups (31 percent were enterprises and 6 percent were government).

Conversations with C-Suite executives from mid-sized and enterprise organizations in the region reflect these findings as well. Most executives recognize the need to innovate but are early in their journey. Additionally, they face barriers to execution – companies in Atlantic Canada tend to be either regional offices or, when headquartered here, leaner with smaller budgets compared to competitors in larger markets. This feeds into a more risk averse culture. However, startups are helping drive corporate innovation more than ever. Corporations are adapting best practices startups use by locating an extension of the organization in an innovation hub or startup incubator.

This trend started six years ago at Communitech in Waterloo, Ontario. It’s now home to two dozen Corporate Innovation Outposts from a wide range of sectors. More recently, Volta Labs became home to Atlantic Lotto’s Innovation Outpost and we are seeing them deliver stellar results firsthand.

Generally, before coming to Volta or Communitech, corporations have tried more traditional innovation strategies, but have not received the desired results. Consultants haven’t driven outcomes, culture change is too abstract on a standalone basis, and innovating internally is impeded by legacy systems, processes and structures.

It is only natural that corporations look at startups as being nimble, fearless and quick to go-to-market and want to emulate attributes in their own organizations. They come to a place like Volta for advice on how to achieve this.

The success of a Corporate Innovation Outpost requires understanding that a startup and a large company are not the same; but they can help each other be successful. Big organizations often struggle to adapt, especially as the speed of change continues to accelerate, but startups generally struggle with scale, process and channels.

An Innovation Outpost creates an environment outside of the main organization where rapid prototyping and ideation can occur – much like in a startup. In an Innovation Hub, the work is occurring in close proximity to startups in a rich ecosystem of talent. This makes it much more likely that a solution to a business challenge will be identified earlier, or that an entrepreneur or early stage company will consider pivoting and partnering to address the challenge.

In this way, the startup gains a valuable client and potential development partner, and through its Outpost, the corporation is best positioned to test, develop and advance innovative ideas beyond budget cycles and annual plans to more impactful stages in the business cycle.

Volta will always be a place built by and for founders, but it’s now also a space for corporations who want to engage talent and emulate best practices of startups. Together, we will create a stronger innovation ecosystem in Atlantic Canada.

Interested in learning how Volta can help you drive innovation in your organization? Contact our VP of Corporate Innovation, Chris Crowell today. 

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