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Reimagining Startup and Enterprise Innovation

Does a scaleup have time to innovate?

Sylvain Tillon, cofounder and CEO, Tilkee. Tilkee is a member of Oracle's Paris-based startup program.

If you’ve made it to the scaleup stage, chances are you’re an innovative person or have an innovative team. In Tilkee’s case it’s the latter.

How did Tilkee manage to employ such innovative people? Well, as much as being innovative is a great trait in a startup employee, it’s definitely not an obligatory recruitment criteria for us.

The Tilkee team is innovative because we’re all constantly working with and meeting companies of all sizes in all sectors with their own problems to solve. Over time, this gives you a great perspective on potential solutions to a problem. Thanks to this experience, everyone soon begins to find their own solutions to internal or client problems, even if they don’t exist yet, with the help of the whole team.

If you approach it from this angle, you can see why Tilkee has time to innovate as a scaleup... because it’s the whole team and not just the CEO coming up with new ideas.

My work culture has always been to co-create and involve the entire team in developing side projects based on our clients and team’s feedback. We take parts of the existing Tilkee technology and innovate around it to offer new possibilities to our clients.

So apart from the occasional mid-week light-bulb moment, how do we have time to innovate? Well, quite simply, we dedicate a yearly seminar to this. This may not seem like a lot but you’d be amazed to know what the Tilkee team came up with in one day and how we did it.

Startup Friday

Every year, at the beginning of September, the entire team takes part in something we call “Startup Friday!” The web developers present their ideas to the whole team and based on the best ideas, groups of salespeople and devs are formed. Each team works throughout the day to take the initial idea and come up with a business model, landing page and fully functioning prototype by 18:00. Each idea is then pitched and demoed to the entire team.

It’s a great and engaging day which encourages the web developers and sales teams to mix and work together. It’s interesting for both groups to see and better understand the ins and outs of the work that the other does and proves beneficial for the team all year round.

Not only is it a lot of fun but we genuinely dedicate resources to each new innovation and do our best to take them to market just like Tilkee for Marketing, Foxy the connected fox, Tilkee for Events, Autolike, Copilot and SemanTilk, which have all come out of “Startup Friday!”

One of the simplest but most effective innovations that has come out of Startup Friday, September 2017, is Tilkee for Events, and it’s already on the market. The tool stemmed from a simple problem: at corporate events or trade fairs you pick up hundreds of business cards and then waste hours manually typing each email address and delaying sending out your follow-up. By simply taking a photo of the business card with 'Tilkee for Events', your brochure is automatically, instantly sent out during the event and you’ll know exactly how and when the prospect reads the brochure.

One of the most important things to be learnt from this is to stop thinking that it’s only the CEO or cofounders that can come up with the ideas and the goods; and here are for two main reasons why:

  1. Because innovation comes from all employees and everyone should be able to suggest ideas freely as successfully demonstrated by Tilkee’s Startup Fridays. Gone are the days of ‘suggestion boxes’ which gave the impression that innovation shouldn’t come from the individual.
  2. Because over time, you realise that often your employees’ or colleagues’ ideas are better than your own and they give their all to make it work!

So scaleups, there is time to innovate, you just need to make it a priority—and do it with everyone!

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