However, in today's challenging economic environment, technology startups can struggle to bring new ideas to market. In response, two years ago IBM opened its doors to provide support and resources that can help the next generation of entrepreneurs capture emerging business opportunities in fast-growing industries such as energy and utilities, health care, telecommunications and government.
The IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative provides startups with no-charge access to a variety of IBM software for development, test, and demonstration purposes on premise, or via the IBM SmartCloud Enterprise platform. Under the programme, startups can connect with IBM technical leaders, as well as tap into sales, marketing and industry skills and expertise. IBM can help convert these companies from startups to speedups – helping them get to market faster, and at the same time providing IBM clients with the hottest new technology solutions.
The initiative includes exclusive networking and mentoring events held annually across the globe. ‘SmartCamps’ bring together entrepreneurs, investors, and experienced mentors who want to help us build a smarter planet. SmartCamp provides entrepreneurs access to world-class advisors, plus a direct route to seed and venture capital.
In 2010 and 2011, IBM held seventeen SmartCamp events around the world. In each location, a winner was selected to go on and challenge for the title of ‘IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year’. Previous finalists have included technologies that enable skin cancer detection on a mobile device, help commuters avoid traffic, and deliver better shopping experiences.
The 2011 winner of the London SmartCamp, and the overall Global winner, was an Irish based company called Profitero. They are a pricing intelligence company which works with retailers and manufacturers to help them to grow sales and profit margins with the Profitero competitor price monitoring technology. They monitor the competitor prices of 28 million products across 3,000 retail websites on their client’s behalf.
When asked about their experience of the programme, Volodymyr Pigrukh, Profitero CEO and Co-Founder said, “Winning the competition has meant a great deal to our business. Having access to the experience and range of IBM SmartCamp mentors was incredible - entrepreneurs, VCs and IBMers. We made some really key lasting contacts from SmartCamp . The media coverage that being named IBM Global Entrepreneur of the Year brought us has also been fantastic.”
In my role of local IBM leader for this initiative I get to meet a lot of startup companies, and I would say that Volodymyr has highlighted a fundamental element in becoming a successful entrepreneur – collaboration. Companies of all sizes need to collaborate to prosper, and I think a major contributor to IBM reaching its milestone of 100 years in business has been its willingness to collaborate.
According to the latest IBM CEO study, external partnering relationships are now at an all-time high. In 2008, slightly more than half of the CEOs IBM interviewed planned to partner extensively. Now, more than two-thirds intend to do so.
I can also say that there is no single company that is perfect for the SmartCamp concept. Every company is different, so I’d advise anyone wanting to get involved to accentuate those differences and show us how their company can add value to any of the three ‘I's’: Instrumented, Intelligent, and Interconnected.
SmartCamp looks for early stage companies which are beyond the conceptual idea or business plan stage. Companies should be able to demonstrate an appreciation of the market and the business challenges they face.
Anyone wishing to join the IBM Global Entrepreneur initiative or enter the 2012 SmartCamp programme should visit: http://www.ibm.com/isv/startup