How 3 Innovation Leaders Keep Track of New Startups

March 4th, 2016


The constantly evolving startup ecosystem offers significant opportunities for every business to increase competitive advantage and drive meaningful growth. Bringing outside-in innovation into your business requires developing strategies and adopting platforms that empower these efforts.

To start identifying best practices in this area, we spoke to three leaders from very different backgrounds, all speakers in one of KITE’s three SXSW Startup Village sessions: digital marketer at GSK, a Fortune 500 pharmaceutical company; operations head at CrunchBase, a leading startup data platform; and technology director at Maxus, a global agency.

We discussed how they keep track of new startups and had them give their best piece of advice or hard-won hack for doing so. You’ll find they all use a combination of tools and real-life interactions and relationships, offering tips you can start using right away.

This is just the beginning of the conversation.

Learn more from these leaders at KITE’s SXSW session Here Are The Keys To Your New Innovation Playbook on Saturday, March 12 from 9:30am to 10:30am, Salon E, Hilton Austin. This is the first of three KITE SXSW sessions for brand and agency leaders seeking outside-in innovation. Check out our complete program.

How do you keep track of new startups in spaces you care about considering how rapidly the landscape changes?

MeredithHermanMeredith Herman, Digital Marketing Director, GSK [ @MereHerman ]:
“In today’s fast-moving digital environment, I find it more challenging than ever to keep up with the companies that matter. We talk a lot about being externally focused at GSK and ensuring we’re in touch with our consumers, competitors and key industry trends. We rely on our agency partners, industry and tech conferences and organizations to help us discover new companies or consumer trends that we should embrace or test. We also make annual trips out to Silicon Valley make in-person connections with new and existing partners. We dedicate a percentage of our spend to innovation to help breed a culture of innovation and change. Having that spend set aside ensures that we actually think and act on new opportunities.”

MattKaufmanMatt Kaufman, Head of Operations, CrunchBase [ @kaufman_matt ]:
“I look for leading indicators of a company making an impact or gaining attention. This is often funding activity or clusters of press coverage — frequently related to one another. There are plenty of services that help surface this information and CrunchBase is of course is one, but we also provide the underlying data used by many other valuable tools.”

TomKelshawTom Kelshaw, Director of Technology – Metalworks, Maxus [ @tomkelshaw ]:
“Three ways: 1. Curated tech blogs & newsletters & podcasts – where the producers are explaining the context behind the technology: Techcrunch, Recode, Ars Technica, Mashable.

2. Industry events: Nothing beats actually meeting founders: SXSW, Web Summit, CES, TechWeek, Resonate, Echelon etc. Even more important are the more local meet ups. I try to visit a new one whenever I travel. Every city has an email that highlights what tech/startup events are on – Gary’s Guide in NYC, TheList in Singapore etc. I think I subscribe to all of them. is also an amazing resource.

3. Purpose-built tools: ProductHunt, Crunchbase, Mattermark and of course KITE. You need a way to store and search based on specific attributes like category, founders, investors etc.”

What’s your best piece of advice (or hard-won hack) for keeping up with new entrants in emerging-tech sectors you care about?

“Know your priority areas and then set aside the time. I dedicate 20 minutes to read up on what is new before opening my email inbox.”

“Don’t forget that identifying disruptive technologies is what investors do as a full-time job. Start by identifying key investors, particularly at the seed and Series A stage, that invest in your domain of interest. Again, there are many tools available for doing this including CrunchBase and applications built on the CrunchBase platform. Once you’ve identified the investors, start building a relationship that enables you to learn about new companies and enables the investor to source early customers for their portfolio companies.”

“Universities and art galleries produce the most exciting work in tech. It’s not scalable, it’s not commercial, it’s just raw and exciting. I keep my eye on that stuff and wait until startups catch up. That’s when you know it’s time to get on. A good example is Deep Learning: This has been developing in academic circles for a decade, and last year we saw a massive crop of startups promising to convert all that science into useful and usable products.”

You’ll learn more from Meredith Herman, Matt Kaufman and Tom Kelshaw at KITE’s SXSW session Here Are The Keys To Your New Innovation Playbook on Saturday, March 12. Our full slate of programming features leaders from Visa, PepsiCo and more brands – join us and follow @getKITE and #KITESXSW for updates.