A collaborative journey toward corporate innovation: full transcript

Laurent Kinet

Welcome everyone. I’m Laurent Kinet CEO of Novable. It’s a pleasure to have you all here today for this open-door guided tour of the Novable startup scouting platform It will be quick, efficient and insightful. You’ll get a walk-through of the Novable platform by your Head of Product Yifan. She’ll get you through the features, and show you the new releases and the roadmap ahead. You’ll have a voice by voting on which direction is the best or the most interesting for you. You’ll vote in the chat to help us decide on the next developments. We’ll then have a conversation with Cécile Cordier Head of Innovation at Engie Global Energy Management Solution, a client of Novable. She will talk about open innovation, how to partner with startups and why Engie is using Novable for that. It’ll be a 40-minute ride. So, let’s start. If you have questions, please leave them in a chat and we’ll take them at the end. And be sure to stay until the end because we have a surprise for you.

What is the main value Novable brings?

Laurent Kinet

So a few words about Novable in two minutes. Novable helps innovation professionals within large companies and corporations identify and engage with startups. To feed the growth, innovation or transformation projects. We do that by combining AI-based technology and the expertise of our agents. Well, we all know that corporate venturing is a growing trend and the practice is spreading throughout the business world. And it can unevenly grow in the future. However, companies are still ill-equipped for this. There are so many startups out there and we see a lot of people still using Google or Crunchbase to run scouting activities, which don’t render good results or to the contrary too many results, that they have to analyze it one by one.

Those databases also propose financial data, but very little information on the actual activity of startups, which is the most important thing to get when you work with innovation. So we see analysts spend thousands of hours analyzing candidates they will eventually disqualify and our mission is this one –  save our clients time on the road and find the most relevant candidates. So if they exist, we will find them. We’ve seen that too often, analyzed, suffering the sad syndrome. Not only it’s sad, but it also refers to spot, analyze, drop, and repeat. And our mission is to fight that. So our users and clients love Novable, and why? Because they cannot rely on an extended scouting team available open requests when they need it and focus on what really matters. So we run our campaigns on the most extensive database of 1.82 million startups. Contextualized, based on startup activity data, not only firmographics, which increases the matching relevance.

So it’s indeed a semantics-based matching. We go beyond keywords to make the technology understand details and nuances, even from a two-page briefing. We make sure that the matching companies truly offer what our clients look for. So you can use a search engine on the platform, and you’ll get immediate results. And you can also launch campaigns supported by Novable agents who will validate companies and so deliver you validated results in golden baskets (as we call it) within two days. So we deliver real value to our clients. We are proud to say that 100% of our customers are satisfied. We have zero return on the plan so far, and we can see it in a number of campaigns launched on the platform since we started it. In total, we have delivered more than 12 thousand validated companies in golden baskets. So if you do the math, it’s an average of 40 companies per campaign.

So that’s Novable in a nutshell. We work with large companies and corporations in Europe and in the United States with any industry, since they’re all concerned with innovation. So don’t hesitate to ask questions in the chat. I leave the floor to Yifan our Head of Product. She will take you for a quick guided tour of the product backstage. So Yifan your turn.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

How to navigate on Novable platform?

Yifan Di

Hi everyone. So I’m Yifan, I’m a Product Manager at Novable and very happy today to be here and to walk through our innovation platform very quickly. So just an overview of what we’re doing today. We’ll be answering the following questions. So what can you get from Novable? It’s basically the value we deliver to you. The second one is how to use the platform. We’ll do an actual demo of the application a bit later. Then I’ll be introducing to you our newest feature. The best practices part is really important to get the best out of the tool. And we’ll end on a more interactive note on the next step as Laurent mentioned.

So to start what can you get from Novable is a list of companies whose activities match your description and for Novable, there are two ways of doing that. This can be rather short or long, depending on the use case. And the first way of doing this is by using the deep matching powers campaigns. Deep matching is the in-house developed algorithm that is at the core of Novable. So the big focus here is really the quality in contrast with the speed. And the second one is, what we call, Real-Time Search, our new feature that is focused on speed. So we’ll first dive into the first one, the deep matching campaigns, and we’ll have a look at how that works. So I’m just gonna share my screen.

I’m on the Novable platform on my dashboard. So I see all the campaigns that I have. What’s actually a campaign. For us, it’s a way to express what you’re looking for in order to receive a list of companies whose activity are matching your description. So we call this list a golden basket. You will be able to, with the campaign, talk to our algorithm, just as you’re talking to a consultant to get this golden basket. And how do we use that on the platform? Let me show you. We have a small button here. Basically, you can create a campaign on our platform pretty easily. I’m gonna cheat a bit from here. I’m gonna use the one that I prepared yesterday for today’s purpose.

So this is how it looks like on the platform. The first step we expect is that you describe the type of company or product you’re looking for. So here you enter a description of the activity. Again don’t tell the machine what you are doing or why you are looking for this, that will bring noise and the machine will probably get it the wrong way. So it’s very important. I insist that you spend the correct amount of time on this part. As this is really the basis of the whole campaign, the whole project. So in this example, I’m looking for software companies active in HR tech, using ATS with videos as a core part of the process of hiring people. So basically that’s the standpoint that I’m looking for.

The second step is to enter some topics first. So here we expect two to eight topics to set the whole context of the search because there are so many innovative companies in our database. As Laurent mentioned, there are 1.8 million companies. So please help the machine narrow it down. The example of companies and geographical filters are optional. So I won’t insist too much on them. Then from here, you click on preview. You will click on save. You’ll have what the machine understood from your input. I recommend you save the draft and preview the result. Here you have a glance at what you’ll be getting in your actual golden basket. So you just feel if you are on track or not, and when you feel you’re not on track, you’re always welcome to edit it again and preview it again. So here we are and now it seems nice. I’m gonna publish this campaign. Submit the campaign, you get the results here.

So here you get what we call a golden basket. These are the results provided by the fifth version of our deep matching algorithm that we develop in-house or with our data scientist. And it’s really tailored for this specific usage. You might wonder how the results are ranked. Actually, they’re ranked in terms of semantic closeness to your input. Why semantic? If there’s only one thing you’ll remember from this doc, I really hope that this is the one – Novable uses AI NLP techniques to really grasp the semantic relationships between text, just as the human does when he’s reading. Right. And that’s why it’s so powerful because it’s not just trivial words matching word comparison. So here I wanted to also highlight the fact that this is highly related to the quality of your description. It makes sense as that’s what you’re feeding the machine, right? So you do want to pay attention to how you formulate your entries and make sure that the content is really relevant. So that’s also why it’s totally normal that all companies on this list are not exactly on your target. And that’s why also you want to involve a Novable agent throughout the process. Because the human factor is really key in the innovation process. And we’ll get back to this point a bit later on.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

Yifan Di

So, okay, let’s have a look at the data we show here. We have employee information, founded on information and we have some general descriptions of what the company is doing. But we do encourage you to also look at the website of the company. Because it happens a lot, some companies matching your needs do not only have one activity. Right? And sometimes at first glance on this page, you might wonder that some results are not really related to your search. But if you dig further into the website you’ll be surprised in general. So there is a reason why those companies are there and then you have some general context, you have the topics and, some shortcuts that are just a bit more friendly to use on that page. At some point, you might want to get some extra information. Like the people behind the company, the activity level of the company, financials or whatever to get a bit further into your process of collaboration. So just need to ask for requests for a one-pager.

I’ll quickly go through these buttons. If any information is wrong on this page or something that you want to tell us about this company, please report it. Don’t hesitate to share this information with your colleagues. Follow the company so that future changes, employee numbers, and any news we might spot are notified to you. So that you can track the progress of a particular company. And most importantly, favourite it. So that you have them all at the same spot and you can find them back very easily.

The next step we expect from you on the campaign is to tag your results. Because we need you to tell the algorithm how it did the work for you. So it can learn from your answer and iterate. So you can assign a match or miss tag to each company of your golden basket. And this is one of the key values of Novable. The campaign is not just a one-shot, you write your problem and you get a list and that’s it. No, problems are really complex and there’s no easy way to formulate that. So that’s why we always solve problems with multiple complaints. And we do iterations to get closer to the matches within each campaign.

Let me just also talk about a bit the use case in general. Why do we want to use this campaign form to do startup scouting? The principal use case is to conduct an innovation project to thoroughly study one particular solution. It’s also possible to monitor the market, to see if anything is happening in your interest. It might not be the quickest way to obtain the list because we really recommend you involve the human in this process to discuss the strategy, how to split into more specific campaigns, how to formulate, how to iterate, etc. But it does save your time. And generally, very high-quality results are delivered. And obviously, I can not cover everything here. If you have questions, please drop them in the chat. And we will answer some of them during the Q&A session. So that’s it for this part.

Yifan Di

Now I’m going to move to the introduction of our newest feature, which is here, the Real-Time Search that represents the second level of scouting, which is in contrast to the quality focus, we’ll be focusing on speed. Super simple, very easy. How to use it? We recommend three to ten keywords and eventually select the geographical filter that you’re interested in. And you get your results in real-time. What’s the use case of this functionality? Actually, users go there usually before a campaign, just to have a quick overview. Also to know if something even exists. They will use it for research for preparing for a meeting or they just want to have some general idea on particular fields that they’re not familiar with. So this is really easy to use compared to campaigns, right? You have total autonomy and you can iterate as many times as you want.

What you get here is a list of 20 companies, provided according to the entry. And we kept this list short on purpose, for now, to encourage you to try different sets of keywords, because usually, the first results are the most relevant. But if you want more, just, it’s very easy, ask us through this little chatbot and we’ll come up with some more results. And do save the ones that you like and you can actually find out more information about them in this tab. Actually, I wanted to say also that this functionality is very new and we appreciate every feedback that can help us improve it.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

Tips about how to make the best out of the Novable tool

Yifan Di

So that’s it for this part. So now let me give you some tips about how to make the best of the Novable tool. The best practices on the Novable platform. The first one is when you find an interesting company, favourite it because exploring and assessing takes so much time. So save, what you found so that you can find them back later.

Second, invite your colleagues to the platform. Innovation is really a collaborative process, right? And you want to share your findings with your colleagues that might have certain expertise or colleagues that have more time to assess, or also with your agent, which is important. You can also carry on multiple projects at the same time with several users using the platform and at the same time, that’s totally possible on Novable.

Third, save your draft. When you’re constructing the formulation of what you’re looking for, as I said, the formulation and the level of detail is very important to get what you want. So you don’t have to rush to finish it. You can just save your draft, discuss it with your colleagues, with your agent and finish it whenever you want.

And last, but not least, and most importantly, talk to your agent. This is very important. A  lot of the importance lies in the human factor because that’s one of the strengths of Novable. We don’t leave you alone with the tool and you make you figure out what to do with it. No, we are here for you throughout the whole innovation process. What you can do first, you will define your scouting strategy with your agent, for example, how to break the bigger problems down into smaller pieces that are better fit to conduct the scouting exercise, because it’s very important to know that you need to be specific enough to get a result. If your strategy is just about VR and AR innovation, how would the meshing be smart enough to provide you with the most interesting companies among the 1.8 million databases it’s just not possible. So the level of detail is important. That brings us to another point.

Where do you want to get your agent’s help? They are really the expert in talking to the algorithm accurately. So they know how to fine-tune the descriptions to get better results. So I suggest that you start by writing your strategies, save them into a draft mode and make your agent help you rework them. At the beginning of your journey with Novable, you will have meetings with your Novable agent so that you can learn together how to do it right for your use case. They’ll give you tricks about how to do that.

The third point, ask your agent to help you iterate. Maybe your first batch is not satisfactory, but you’ll need that first step to explore and grasp some other key elements that you didn’t know you needed, but that is crucial to your campaign. And that’s why we iterate until you get what you want. If that exists now, otherwise you’ll also know that what you’re looking for doesn’t truly exist.

And the fourth point is to get more Real-Time Search results. What we’ve seen a few times is that users either turn a search into a campaign to save time or to get better quality results, because we leverage the semantic advantage in the campaigns. So you are welcome to do that too.

How Innovation Manager is scouting for new startups?

Laurent Kinet

Thank you very much Yifan. We can see that Novable is particularly useful when it comes to complex problems or very specific requests which happen very often with corporate innovation. Okay, so now we have the pleasure to have Cécile Cordier, with us. Cécile Cordier is Head of Innovation at Engie Global Energy management solutions to make it short. She’s a client of Novable. Hello, Cécile, and welcome. Thank you for being here with us. We’ll have a short conversation about your experience and yourself. The first question, can you briefly introduce yourself who you are and what is your position with Engie?

Cécile Cordier

Okay. Well, first of all, I’m Cécile Cordier. So my current position is I’m Head of the Innovation of one of the business units that is focusing on energy management and trading. I’ve been in Engie for like the past century. And it’s quite an interesting company because it’s an energy. And when I joined, we were really focusing on liberalization and newer, the emergence of the market. So I started more in the strategy and finance division. And then I moved to energy management and trading. Where actually we have seen also quite a lot of new stuff happening with new markets, like the CO2 markets. We have seen new markets in all countries. Lots of trading. And nowadays we also see lots of innovations on the technology side that are happening and impacting the markets like, obviously windmills and PV that are there for a decade or so. But it’s a very moving industry, something where things tend to move quite a lot.

Laurent Kinet

And I guess you also have a personal interest in startups yourself on a personal note.

Cécile Cordier

Yeah. So I have a personal interest in innovation per se. I’ve always been really working with innovative stuff in Engie. And quite recently I actually changed a bit from internal innovation in Engie to more external ones. And I started looking a bit at what was happening in the big wild world outside. And I found that the world of startups and entrepreneurs was really fascinating. So actually, a couple of years ago I started becoming an angel investor. In some network that exists in Belgium. And that has allowed me to also touch firsthand innovators and all this ecosystem that is very inspiring.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

Laurent Kinet

So I see you know about startups and at the same time, you hold an innovation-related position in a large company. So you know, both sides of the table. And so you might have some insights on the key drivers that encourage companies like yours to engage in open innovation and specifically to partner with startups. So can you elaborate a bit on your views and the ones of Engie?

Cécile Cordier

Okay. Actually, I think it’s some kind of a journey. In the beginning, people tend to start doing things by themself. You do some incubation projects and you want to develop things and then at some point you realize this is just not gonna make it. And there are so many things out there. There’s the technology innovation, that’s everything that’s moving around the digital, and there is the customer expectation (they want more environmental stuff). They want also different experiences. And at some point, you just realize, that if you want to do everything yourself, it’s not going to work. So you need to onboard the external world, as I was saying. When you start working, you want to do things by yourself, and then you realize there’s really an added value in collaborating and in including all this intelligence from the external world. So I really believe that as a company, we have a role to play in society. And it’s also very important that we collaborate with many stakeholders because that gives us also a grasp of what’s living in our ecosystem amongst our customers, and amongst the countries in which we operate. So we need to be connected in many different ways. And the startup world, in particular, gives, first all this innovation and this complexity that we cannot master internally. But it also gives us a view of what’s living in the new generation. And I think that’s extremely important for a company to also know what motivates the young generation, what do they want to innovate in? These entrepreneurs usually go with their heart, with their guts and they go for a start that’s really dear to their heart. And working with them allows us also to anticipate the world and also to be more in tune with our own employees, with the new generation that we hire. So there are countless benefits. Maybe I was not very structured, but really the key is we have things to gain by working with startups.

Laurent Kinet

Very interesting and I totally share those views. But on the other hand, they also come with their challenges, right. And difficulties and one of them, maybe the most prominent of all, is the difficulty of identifying the right partner to work with. Since, as you said, there are so many companies in the world. It’s like looking for a needle in the haystack. And from the Engie perspective, what challenges do you face the most? 

Cécile Cordier

Well, I think you just put the right name on it. There’s such a stack out there. It’s how do you know where to start? If you make a Google search, I was doing that while Yifan was speaking. I was thinking, okay, maybe I’m going to do an environmental trading – wow 3000 million result. That was the answer from Google. This is not a way to go. So if you want to work and collaborate with external stakeholders, with startups, with small companies, making a Google search 300 million, forget it. I mean, you’re getting everything from company to just a paper and it’s just useless. So historically people use a lot their network. I know someone who works in this domain and that’s one way that can help obviously. But I mean it doesn’t have this serendipity effect that you get when you do a Google search. Because you basically rely on your own network and you may actually miss some very interesting connections that you could come from somewhere that you didn’t expect. The alternative, that basically all big companies do is to work with dedicated teams, either internal or you just hire a consultant. You say, okay, I now want to do a bio biomethane trading and what are the companies? And we have a very specific topic and then you can work, but it’s very expensive.

And so you do need these teams internally obviously, but you want to use them occasionally, I would say. You want to use them in the right space and you don’t want to use them maybe just to get ideas. So there’s a balance between 300 million and a very costly very fine search. And I think this is the challenge that we face as a company. How do we position ourselves between the network to limited? Specific consultancy is quite expensive and Google searches are quite random.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

Laurent Kinet

And that’s a perfect transition to my last question. So, Engie is using Novable. That could be one of the solutions. So can you tell us how the platform, the Novable platform, helps Engie identify innovation trends and business opportunities within the energy market specifically?

Cécile Cordier

Actually, just like the rest, it is a journey. It is something that we started using a few months ago. Initially, I had very wild dreams. Like we’re gonna spot the perfect startup and just invest in it and it’s gonna be perfect. And then I realized, okay, maybe we need to actually use Novable and learn how to use it. And Yifan made a brilliant job of getting the tricks and saying of it how to get use of it. And apart from this use case, ultimately the goal is to identify the startups with which you can work.

I actually have found other use cases that I found really interesting in, let’s say, a more journey approach. One of which is, I think you mentioned that innovation needs a collaborative process, it needs to be spread in the company, and lots of people in very big companies, they’re focused and it’s very useful. They’re very focused on their process, their efficiency, maximizing and really optimizing what they do. And if you come to them and you say, okay, you need to look a bit what’s outside and you should work with a startup. They don’t have the time. And I really found that Novable and in particular, this very rapid search, is a very easy way to onboard someone and say, okay, just give me 10 minutes of your time. I’m gonna show you something in 10 minutes. And the fact that you can grasp 10 minutes of a colleague it’s okay. Asking him for a full day to visit a couple of startups or to spend half a day specifying a search. It may be complicated. But if you want to work on this, let’s say cultural transformation and all this journey, having these really useful results, it’s something that spikes their interest. And so that’s a very good use case.

And the other one that we actually used on some topics. We obviously still do quite a lot of internal innovation beat on artificial intelligence. Some, teams working on blockchain. And on some topics, we really want to remain a state of the art internally because it’s our core business. But to remain state of the art, you need to know what’s happening outside and on that topic where actually the topic is much better defined, I really found that the deep search really, you know, describing what you do, what is your state of the art and using Novable to really benchmark and to have some kind of watch of what startups are coming with, or start to come with for the topics on which you want to remain really ahead. That’s quite useful.

So let’s say the golden aim is to identify. This startup, which we gonna cooperate. We haven’t materialized it yet to be fully honest. We have already these two very useful results. And what I found great is that in Novable you can have the agents, but you have all the team and you can really exchange and say, okay, this could help me a bit better. And it’s a journey that we build together. In order to get to the ultimate achievement. We didn’t conclude yet, but we did spot a few months ago some very interesting startups. And then these two effects that actually really contribute to this transformation that I really believe is absolutely necessary, like opening the mind of people, breaking the silos, having collaboration and that’s really a very useful tool in that respect.

startup scouting for corporate innovation

Laurent Kinet

Thank you very much, Cécile. Unfortunately, time is running out, but it was very insightful. And I hope the audience now has a good view of the value that Novable provides to innovation teams. Those are the use cases that can be fulfilled with such a technology. You know, R&D, procurement, trans monitoring, M&A, anything where open innovation and collaboration with startups are involved. So it was very insightful. Thank you very much.

Yifan Di

We do have a question here. What does the onboarding process look like? You might want to take this one.

Laurent Kinet

Yes, of course. We take our client’s onboarding very seriously. Since we do not let leave them alone in front of a platform and let them try to figure out how to use it. As Cécile pinpoint it, it’s a collaborative journey with us. So the onboarding of a new client usually takes a couple of meetings, to make sure to understand both the corporate strategy behind, but also to best formulate the briefing for the first campaign. And, this first campaign, usually acts as a benchmark for the campaigns that will follow. It’s a way to get to know each other, to understand the underlying and fundamental criteria of this specific business or specific entity within a larger corporation. And it’s done by one of our knowable agents who is dedicated to the client. So onboarding is made through two meetings.

We have another question from Pascal to Cecile. Is Novable an integral part of your processes or do you use it on another basis? Do you have people internally who have the right skills to use the Novable platform?

Cécile Cordier

So it’s more on an ad hoc basis. As I said, it’s a journey. So this is something that we are progressively integrating into the process. And the people having the skills, I mean, with the onboarding we have a couple of people who are fully formed to do the full search. But really, the Real-Time Search, it’s very easy to use. So, I wouldn’t say everybody can use it, but it’s quite easy. So we have a couple of people who are a relay, who can relay and for the rest, it’s a very easy platform.

Laurent Kinet

Time is really running out. If you have other questions don’t hesitate to send us your questions and we’ll answer you of course. And that’s it. Thank you Yifan and Cécile for your contribution and thank you all for attending. Have a nice day ahead. See you next time. Thank you all. Bye.

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