i3 | June 26, 2019

In-House Innovation: A Recipe for Success

Jeremy Snow

Since 1937, Canon has been known for its bold, high quality cameras, but the company has developed a plethora of other innovative devices such as calculators, copiers, projectors and printers. And today, even as the camera market faces challenges from high-quality smartphone cameras, Canon is continuing to adapt with the help of other tech companies.

With successful startups often leading innovation, larger companies like Canon U.S.A. are investing in young entrepreneurs who have fresh, profitable takes on the industry. With partnerships that come from startup acquisitions or alliances, Silicon Valley leaders can turn their own business into a tech hub.

“We see the partnerships with these startups as a mutually beneficial collaboration where we can learn from the pace in which startups conduct their business models,” Eliott Peck, executive vice president and general manager at Canon U.S.A., said. “In these evolving industries, this is very important for us to sustain our future growth.”

In January, for example, Canon formed a strategic alliance with Brizi, a platform used in sports stadiums that allows groups to take Jumbotron-like pictures of themselves with the help of remote cameras and a phone app.

Brizi already used Canon hardware, but the full strategic alliance brought both companies a unique opportunity by using new camera technology in the ever-changing sports and entertainment world, while also simultaneously expanding into new markets.

“Brizi can move quickly, take risks and innovate rapidly, while Canon has the resources, the know-how and the network,” Brizi CEO Anna Hu said.

“Together, we have made our technology more robust, opened up doors to new clients and solved technical challenges like those around our new video feature.” 

Canon U.S.A.’s partnerships allow them to demonstrate how startups can fill voids in the marketplace. Beyond the U.S., other Canon Group companies have acquired Lifecake, a photo journal app for children, in 2015, and then the on-demand custom printing company, Kite, in 2017. Then in 2017, Canon Group acquired Briefcam, a video surveillance software company.

The classic camera company is succeeding with its strategy. Large businesses often scoop up or join forces with smaller ones, whether it’s Apple buying Shazam, Beijing ByteDance Technology buying Musical.ly, or Hilton Hotels partnering with CTA member Benjilock.

Nurturing Innovation

Silicon Valley heavyweights value startups so much that they have even welcomed them into their own training centers. Some of the biggest companies in the world, including Salesforce, Facebook and Google have developed their own inhouse incubators and accelerator programs where they foster companies in return for investments or long-term ties.

For example, in 2017, Facebook launched the “Startup Garage” in Paris, giving select “data-driven” startups the chance to work together in a special facility and receive mentoring from Facebook higher-ups. In 2018, Facebook also created LDN_LAB, a similar program in London, which took various community-based and tech-for-good startups through a three-month incubation.

Google has a similar program called Area 120, giving employees who work at Google the chance to develop their own passion project, whether it relates directly to Google or becomes its own platform, according to Fast Company.

Companies that aren’t traditional tech companies are also striving to become tech hubs. Goldman Sachs has an accelerator for fintech, while the Disney Accelerator has led to big developments for the company and entertaining in general, even supporting CTA member Sphero in 2014, who developed the technology behind Star Wars robot BB-8.

Certainly, the pairing of large companies and startups can lead to innovative thinking and new business models.

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