Open innovation: 3 things startups should do to connect to big companies

Amanda Graciano, economist and mentor at Cubo Itaú, talks about the importance of open innovation for the innovation ecosystem. Check out the interview

Every startup wants to see their business grow, scale, sell, be known and be seen. It is not only with one's own effort that this objective can be achieved. An alternative to get there is the open innovation.

Open innovation is a kind of symbiosis that happens in the business world. On the one hand, there is someone who has a problem that needs to be solved — and perhaps does not meet all the conditions to do so. On the other side, someone else who already has a long way to go with the solution to the problem in question.

This match could be a game. “As in all markets, the relationship in innovation will be important”, he told iFood News Amanda Graciano, economist, startup mentor and specialist in innovation and digital transformation.

Amanda is one of the participants of Bossa Summit, event that brings together, among April 6th and 7th, Venture Capital funds, angel investors from Brazil, entrepreneurs and startups and sponsored by iFood.

In the interview, the expert talks about the importance of open innovation for the innovation ecosystem, the possibility of coexistence between open and closed models and how this process of bringing together and strengthening the relationship between startups and large companies is carried out.

IFN: At what point did innovation stop being something kept under lock and key and started being something open and shared?

AG: The moment technology becomes part of business, this logic of open innovation, in which you will have internal and external stimuli and it is not necessarily the large company that holds the knowledge or technology, starts to coexist with the closed innovation.

How am I going to get there faster? How am I going to be the company that delivers the best product and service? The answers to these questions will often go through a more or less structured innovation process. And when we talk about innovation, there is no right or wrong. There is what I can or cannot do.

IFN: So does this mean there is no better type of innovation?

AG: No, I feel that both parties need to coexist. If there is only open innovation, you are failing to look at the core, and that is what makes the money. So sometimes just looking at open innovation as if it were the silver bullet is wrong. You need to find a middle ground.

And they will have different practices and things. Open innovation is almost about questioning the status quo of that company. Closed innovation is using the way that company works to create new things.

There is no right or wrong here.

IFN: How important is open innovation to the innovation ecosystem? Both from the startup and company sides. Is it a kind of symbiosis? Does anyone earn more?

AG: You shouldn't win anymore. Anywhere outside of that, I think the relationship is unbalanced.

Everyone wins. It's a win-win, actually, three wins. Because the ecosystem ends up winning when new businesses emerge, when these companies grow they generate a lot of employment and this is also important.

There are things that those who are in the startup are not seeing in the market. At the same time, those in a large corporation are seeing the market move, but as the changes within are very complex, it is sometimes difficult for that person to promote the change they want. And then, in an open innovation project, smaller, with less pressure, this person sees that changes are possible.

IFN: How does the open innovation process work? Who is looking for who?

AG: Everything happens together and mixed. You will have an organization that needs to innovate, needs to look at other markets and wants to connect with startups. And it needs to do this because in the long term the market changes.

On the other side, you will have businesses that are emerging, need to sell, increase their revenue, more channels, actually validate that what they are delivering, if it makes sense for the market.

It's the relationship stage: if you can help me grow, we'll have a relationship. If you can help me sell, we want to have a relationship.

IFN: How does a startup connect with these companies to do business? How does this connection come about with how, anyway? How does the startup take this step?

AG: In the end it's all homework and as in all markets, the relationship here will be important.

One thing that the founding team needs to understand is the dynamics of the corporation they want to interact with. And it changes, right? Organizational culture is different because there are different people, in different companies.

The second point is: just as startups should study the funds and investors they want to receive money from, startups also need to understand and study the corporations they want to interact with.

Especially if they are initiatives from an open innovation project. If it's a customer and supplier relationship, maybe it's a little simpler. But I feel that, in general, we should always do our homework. And then at these times they sin.

Because it's common for people to look and think that open innovation programs are standard 100%, everyone doing the same thing and sometimes it's not.

And a third point to help startups is for them to be very clear about the stage they are at and try to understand the stage that organization is at and the stage of innovation maturity.

Because sometimes it won't be a commercial contract, but that company has the ability to open doors for you, that company can position you in the market. Sometimes these things stay in the background because you are very desperate thinking “I'm going to sell, I'm going to close a project” when in reality there are many other opportunities.

Bossa Summit

The Bossa Summit is an unprecedented event that will bring together the main Venture Capital funds and angel investors in Brazil in São Paulo to network with entrepreneurs and startups. It is a movement to accelerate the investment market in startups in Brazil by connecting and empowering the ecosystem. iFood is one of the event's sponsors.

When: April 6th and 7th

Where: ARCA – Av. Manuel Bandeira, 360, Vila Leopoldina, São Paulo, SP

Ticket and more information: Visit the official website at

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