Agorize began as a French-based open innovation challenge platform that connects businesses and innovators from all over the world. Since it started in 2010 it has hosted over 200 challenges, connected with five million innovators from 185 countries, and earlier this year it attracted €13 million in VC funding. We thought it was time to take a closer look at them.
The platform already has an international presence with offices in Paris, Stuttgart in Germany, Montreal (in French-speaking Canada) and San Francisco in North America, and Hong Kong and Tokyo in Asia. The new funding will allow Agorize to expand in these markets through plans to hire between 75 and 120 employees by the end of the year in sales, marketing, customer support, as well as developers and community managers. Charles Thou, co-founder and CEO, predicts that “In the next 5 years, we will only make around 10 or 20% of our turnover in France.”
Agorize works with a roster of many global corporations who have identified open innovation challenges as both a very effective way to keep their fingers on the pulse of innovation and breakthroughs, and to effect introductions to tomorrow’s top talent. The impressive list includes Microsoft, AWS, Google, L’Oréal, PepsiCo, LVMH, Publicis, HSBC, CBC/Radio-Canada, TD Insurance, Oxford Properties, National Bank of Canada, Desjardins, Bank of America, Citi Group, HP, IBM, Bank of the West, and Capgemini.
Newcomers are regularly surprised by the high quality of the challenges. The range of ideas and innovations they find are way beyond the possible scope of in-house R&D teams, who can sometimes develop a restrictive ‘corporate mindset’ of “I know what was well received last time, I won’t go too far from that again this time.”
Benefits for challenge sponsors
Multinational corporations often have little contact with student and startup innovators. These types of people are also increasingly keen to develop their own businesses in order to make their individual mark on the world rather than join the ranks of corporate employees.
Through the process of sponsoring open innovation challenges, Agorize introduces corporate businesses to students in any particular fields of study to identify and potentially recruit self-identifying top talent; to cutting-edge startups who have already decided where to look for niche opportunities to make a breakthrough; and to digital native app designers who can accelerate the creation of innovative concepts.
Agorize can also create challenges for a company’s existing employees. Working in multi-disciplinary project teams cuts through silo barriers, boosts morale, and unlocks latent enthusiasm and creativity, generating positive commitment with all its associated benefits.
Sponsoring a challenge on Agorize can also be considered as Marketing and HR activity. For example, the French firms Descartes Development, Air Liquide and Michelin combined to set a challenge related to sustainable cities. It highlighted to students and startups that these companies are active and have positive credentials in this sector, and through taking part, potential future recruits identified themselves to these three companies.
More details on this project and many others are available in Agorize’s Case Studies.
Benefits for students and startups
Agorize provides a full project ‘eco-system’ to tap in to and develop student and startup talent. Importantly, as a first stage, students and startup entrepreneurs can actually meet each other through the “matchmaker algorithm.” Each problem-solver registered in their network completes a profile so that they can be identified and notified about relevant challenges. On receiving notification, each individual can apply to join an existing team or create their own and recruit other problem-solvers to join them in addressing a particular challenge.
They work together in a dedicated online workspace provided by Agorize. This enables their collaboration to take place simply and in one location, accelerating iterations and breaking down geographical barriers.
Challenge sponsors can insert their own employees in to teams as a mentor to provide factual information and keep projects going in the right direction, whilst still allowing the free flow of ideas and creative innovation which are prerequisites to achieve breakthroughs.
Companies that set the challenges also contribute to a program of workshops, and help would-be problem-solvers with technical issues, legal matters, general business coaching and advice on how to navigate a development pathway.
At the tail end of challenges, an online voting system allows people in the network to see the proposals that were submitted and deliver their own verdict on which one they think is the winner. This openness encourages the spread and adoption of best practices, and also delivers peer group prestige.
Digital natives teach the C-Suite
As the first generation that has grown up with digital technology since they were young teenagers, Generation Z workers (born 1997-2000) have new perspectives on applying that technology – or even creating their own new tech – to tackle everything around them. It’s a mindset that’s alien to the generation that currently holds the reins of corporate control. Agorize organises hackathons for aspiring tech developers to bounce off each other and truly enlighten the C-Suite.