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Aug 28, 2020
Tweet This © 2019 Bloomberg Finance LP Business discussions at important conferences from VivaTech to the Cannes Lions Festival and beyond are squarely focused on the growing trend of legacy companies collaborating with tech startups. Whether informal conversations or fully formed panel topics, this narrative is of keen interest and helping to drive the next era of innovation. Certainly acquisitions and partnerships have always existed within the business realm, but the pace is growing at undeniable rate and is firmly centered upon tech innovation. Legacy companies are finding that now, more than ever, connecting with the right startups that provide key business solutions gives a competitive advantage in an increasingly complex world. The result is a move toward future-proofing as corporations aligns with younger companies with a specific expertise and track record. Indeed, when Thirstie, a company that provides e-commerce and logistics solutions, first launched it had no idea that it would soon be working with one of the most prominent names in the beer industry. Thirstie now helps Anheuser-Busch, through the corporation's joint venture with Keurig, operate its own e-commerce platforms and create direct relationships with consumers right from the company's own websites. Recommended For You While this might not sound like innovation to many industries, for this one, it is. Before the advent of such offerings, liquor companies could not interface in such a manner with their consumers due to strict federal and state policies and regulations. Now that such rules have been adjusted, Thirstie has been one of the leading players in the space providing a white-label solution. To add to the services, the company just recently rolled out a new data-sharing platform that also enables Anheuser-Busch to offer advanced payment methods, personalized products and customizable subscription plans. Via this platform, Anheuser-Busch customers can have a singular e-commerce experience regardless no matter which product from the overall portfolio. "However, the most important component of our platform is the behavioral and transactional data we are able to provide to Anheuser-Busch," said Devaraj Southworth, CEO and Co-founder of Thirstie. The fact that the startup also focuses on providing critical on shopping behavior and insights also gives Anheuser-Busch additional leverage within an important area for the company. Legacy companies in other industries are also making moves with new innovators on the scene. Safelite AutoGlass recently partnered with a few startups to improve the customer experience and innovation within the 72-year-old company. Safelite says that its objective in working with different startups is to streamline customer wait times, improve expectations and better engage via mobile. Two of the first to help the company meets its goals are Simple-Fill and INGO. Safelite recently decided to launch a beta test partnership with a new class of industrial compressors, initially focused on compressed natural gas (CNG). Simple-Fill’s refueling system was selected due to the company's ability to provide fleet operators at lower, more stable and predictable fuel costs compared to gasoline or diesel fuels via various algorithmic prowess coupled with specific applications of machinery. Safelite then partnered with INGO Money to provide an instant payout of vehicle glass auto claims, enabled by a one-time use mobile app that creates a faster claim process for the consumer by enabling every step to be completed through a mobile application. But certainly, such partnerships are not entered into lightly. Safelite, as with many established corporations, says that its vetting process for startups is complex. Bruce Millard, VP of Digital Marketing and Customer Innovation at Safelite explains, "There are extensive elements we look at and questions we ask such as does the start-up solve a real problem that we have? We look for solutions that solve real, tangible problems in the customer experience journey. Is their technology sound? A lot of start-ups have a really good pitch deck, but we want to see if the ideas actually been built or battle-tested. " In addition, Millard says that the company pays specific interest to whether or not the start-up is far enough along in its offering of products or services that they will have long-term viability. Even legendary masters in a space partnering with new companies they believe to offer a special advantage. Dolby, for example, recently acquired a startup called Voxeet because they see this company as the ideal candidate for conquering the cloud communication market, an area of key interest to the company. Dolby is known for its high-level of audio-visual experiences thanks to its established presence in the movie theaters, home cinema and conference room, but the company had yet to truly penetrate the market of the cloud communication. This venture offers high-quality embedded communication experiences, without hardware, and thus allows Dolby to complete its global vision as a world leader in audiovisual experiences via a startup that has cracked a particular nut. Voxeet Screen Shot Courtesy: Voxeet Voxeet's offering is unique. Its value proposition is that users actually remain within a company's own app rather than having to jump to a third-party such as Skype or Zoom in order to connect via conference. Users can record via their platform, screen share and even transcribe the conversation thanks to Voxeet's APIs. The company also says that its platform is so secure and encrypted that even HIPAA compliant for healthcare-related users. Given such elements, Gartner recently honored Voxeet with their "Cool Vendor of the Year" Award citing the fact that the company's 3D surround-sound makes for a more engaging and effective experience than any other in the space. All this made for quite a seductive scenario for Dolby, but the work is not without hurdles. “The most challenging thing has been to convince the first customers to use our brand new technology instead of using the legacy and word leader Twilio," explains Thomas Mazimann, Head of Marketing at Voxeet. "But we were able to convince the first customers by demonstrating the revolutionary benefits of call conferencing with immersive spatial sound.” Mazimann says that the company's proprietary TrueVoice Technology has been instrumental in driving the brand and offering true, 3D surround sound. Its just such prowess and spirit coupled with an often decentralized and nimble office culture that makes successful startups so attractive to legacy companies whether partnership, acquisition or mere collaboration. Watch for even greater demand from legacy companies for such innovation in order to maintain relevancy.