Over the past year, three conversations about startups have been heard from every angle. Almost every large self-respecting company encourages internal entrepreneurship in every way: accelerators, incubators, venture funds, etc. etc. But what does this carry for the company?
A bit of intro tediousness
It’s cool that in our time there are many different beginnings and generally a huge number of opportunities for self-realization in business.
Just think: before, in order to conduct your business, you had to constantly go to the bank, hire individual accountants, personnel officers, and independently keep accounts. Over time, more and more new possibilities of Internet banking began to appear for entrepreneurs, automation of accounting and personnel administration, etc. – you can go on forever.
And now we are in a moment when it’s not necessary to go to the tax office yourself to open your own business. Everything here, in the palm of your hand, take it and start using it. It would seem that it’s enough just to connect all the parts, make a product, tie yourself and your operational activities with services and forth.
But the key word here is “it seemed.” Many people think that entrepreneurship is freedom, flying in pink clouds and endless possibilities, independence from “uncle”. Yes, all this is possible, but, first of all, it is hard work and systematic work in a certain direction, which sometimes makes you sick, but no one except you will.
And, despite the fact that banks are doing a lot to digitalize near-entrepreneurial life, there are still a number of government institutions with which to continue to personally resolve various issues. Write help for help and for specific help. The state is moving in the right direction on these issues, this is evident, but efforts are not enough so far.
All this is why – when a person with an idea is in the organization, it still does not mean anything, and for its implementation it is necessary to work hard.
Internal startup call
Rosbank, as part of Societe Generale Group, began its conscious path in this direction as part of the global program, which was launched by the Group in 2017. The program was called Internal Startup Call.
Employees of financial institutions in all 67 countries where Societe Generale is represented were given the opportunity to describe their idea and post it on a specially organized portal. Those participants whose ideas gained the most votes (within the country) presented their projects to the leaders of the organization. If successful, the idea fell into the 6-month program, which was carried out with partners – accelerators who help in the rapid development of the idea.
Under the terms of the program, the founder could recruit up to 4 participants to his team and was vested with all the powers necessary to implement his initiative. Funding was generous enough (in terms of rubles it was possible to spend 1 million a month if a team of 4 people worked).
In Russia, within the framework of this entrepreneurial initiative, 2 teams from Rosbank employees were selected.
2 teams – 2 ways
In words, everything seems to sound quite rosy. But, when we began to separate the teams and tear them away from operational activities, a large number of issues appeared that needed to be addressed. How to leave a unit without a person who directed activities in the right direction (one of the leaders of ideas was the head of the department), how to wrest a person responsible for marketing from the operating routine, etc. There were many contradictions, disagreements, conflicts with the senior management, but after all the negotiation upheavals there was no turning back, the initial stage was passed, and the teams landed at the chosen partner for a 6-month acceleration. Each team had its own sponsor, to whom on a monthly basis the teams reported on their results.
The work of one of the teams had to be stopped after 3 months. The idea of the project was to develop recommendations for the possibility of subsequent lending and receiving a commission if successful. The idea itself was pivoted several times, but in the end, it did not find a response from the target audience.
The other team worked for all 6 months, and after this period we (already locally) helped her to develop for another 6 months. We didn’t get unicorns, but we took this initiative as a plus – we managed to make a recommendation system with which we stimulated lending through additional communication to the client at the right time and in the right place, thanks to which NBI of 10 million was received. But the founder himself (the initiator of the idea ) did not want to continue working in the bank and left the company.
Field of controlled experiments
This starting point served as the basis for local experiments. Mindful of the difficulties we encountered, we wanted to speed up the process of developing ideas. Therefore, when a person came to us with a new project, we decided to separate the whole initiative into a separate legal entity in order to give the employee all the necessary powers and tools that would allow them to develop faster. Previously, we checked the idea, felt it, turned it several times, and recognized it as quite suitable. Everything went well, but at the time of the creation of the legal entity, we decided to stop the internal start-up, because, firstly, we did not find a market for scaling and, secondly, the mental calm of the founder was disturbed. Nevertheless, he continued to work in the bank, taking up the supervision of a completely new direction for him – the car loan ecosystem.
This has become an important lesson for us, and now that employees who are on fire with an idea come to us, we are obligatorily conducting diagnostic sessions in which we try to understand the mood of the founder and his readiness for emotional and financial overload. In such circumstances, it becomes well understood when a person himself does not really understand where he is going – in such cases, it is definitely not worth continuing, and the company is unable to help here.
It is also necessary to consider the working environment in which the employee is involved in the project. When you are in the midst of events, you are actively working on something important for you – you don’t realize what effect it has on people who are observing it from the outside. The results of their observations transform behavior, and, as a result, change the culture of the company.
In a simple way, colleagues saw that projects can be developed in this way, and the speed of development is not comparable to that with which this usually happens. As a result, several employees who wanted to quit changed their minds after seeing such opportunities for their own development.
Another thing to keep in mind: people who are trying to develop an internal startup in case of failure (and failure, according to statistics, occur 10 times more often, and this is at best) is difficult to take root – they escaped from the daily routine , saw a “different world” and other opportunities. Yes, it develops, broadens consciousness – but often causes significant changes in the worldview (from the point of view of a company interested in retaining an employee – negative), and there is nothing to be done.
Nevertheless, for the time being we have decided unambiguously – we will continue to experiment with both internal initiatives and external start-ups, mainly those that have their own product. This makes it possible to receive new insights, ideas, quickly test new business models, find new markets and compete with dignity.
Where we come – time will tell. There is no universal solution, and each organization has its own “cultural code”. But what we see already now inspires us with confidence that we have chosen the right direction.