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Open Innovation with start-ups and Artificial Intelligence start-ups in San Francisco & the Bay Area

At the end of February I traveled to the Bay Area (Europeans frequently call it Silicon Valley) to learn more about Open Innovation of companies and start-ups as well as about start-ups in the field of Artificial Intelligence. I’ve been planing already for a while to connect with the global “innovation” hub and used the trip to learn best practices in both domains.

The two-weeks learning journey started in Berkeley at Cal, the University of California Berkeley, where a good friend of mine did a research semester at Haas School of Business. Getting to know the open mindset and having a nice conversation with Henry Chesbrough kickstarted my trip to the Bay Area. Henry is famous for coining the term “Open Innovation” and does a lot of research in this domain with the Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation. The team of next47 also matchmakes start-ups for collaborations with the Siemens AG and we had great conversations on best practices and bad practices when doing open innovation with start-ups. The trend scouting is an essential topic as well as the visibility in and the strong network of the Bay Area. An impressive open innovation project (not sure if start-ups are involved) is the Airbus – Siemens e-aircraft moonshot.

Traveling to Palo Alto and connecting with companies and start-ups there has been the next stop. There I had great conversations with start-ups (for example AppTek) and companies about their collaborations, what works well and what does not work. An event at SAP (part of the SAP Startup Focus program) offered an opportunity to connect with many entrepreneurs and innovators in the field of artificial intelligence in a short period of time. Participating start-ups have been for example: Arterys, Atomwise, AppZen, LendUp, Wave Computing, Commerce Sentient, Ridecell, Excel.Ai, Data Simply, Strattica Labs, AcuteIQ, Kyndi. The Stanford University in Palo Alto forms a central building block of the innovation ecosystem and some of the participants also worked as AI researcher there before. In the entrepreneurship context there are many fold offers by the university (for example the STARTx Accelerator, Stanford ecorner) and many more private actors, for example business angels.

In Redwood City I used the chance to connect with the German Accellerator, a program I know from Berlin and it helps German startups to launch in San Francisco/the United States. In Mountain View I got to know the Techcode Accelerator on Artificial Intelligence with many international start-ups working in the field, for example (Chemisense, Angilytics, cloudbrain, smartypans). The evaluation of start-ups is especially for accelerators a difficult challenge. Recently in Berlin André Marquis (Executive Director of the Lester Center for Entrepreneurship) even argued that no one can pick winners.

In San Francisco I talked to many match-makers (as we are with Ambi-Vation) and talked about B2B business development for start-ups from the Bay Area with German companies. One company I engaged with, enel just opened their new Innovation Hub in San Francisco (at Galvanize San Francisco, 44 Tehama St) to collaborate with start-ups. The launch involved a welcoming speach by Ernesto Ciorra, Head of Innovation and Sustainability Enel S.p.A. and a keynote by Chris Anderson. The participants have been innovators and start-ups especially in the clean tech and energy domain.

Key learnings:

  • Syndication of companies for collaboration with startups
  • Matchmaking start-ups and companies is like digging for gold nuggets
  • Do Networking for mutually beneficial Win-win (long-term!)
  • Mind bad execution of startup tours
  • The Willingness to take risks is significantly higher (for example the M&A of Deepmind)
  • Comparably high costs of living (very high income required)

If you liked these AI Startups from the Bay Area, you might be also interested into the German AI landscape.

Do you have questions or are you planning your own trip to the Bay Area? Get in touch and we can share our experiences and contacts.

About Ambi-Vation
design thinkingAmbi-Vation combines innovative companies and start-ups for innovation partnerships. As an innovation consultancy and matchmaker, Ambi-Vation is pushing the cooperation between established companies and start-ups as part of a general exchange as well as within the scope of concrete customer, supplier and research partnerships. Specifically, Ambi-Vation supports companies in the identification of needs, start-up identification, start-up evaluation and initiation of the cooperation. For this purpose, formats such as the research of relevant start-ups, start-up monitoring, strategic cooperation consulting or event formats such as start-up tours are used. The monthly newsletter also informs curious company representatives about current cooperation examples and events on these cooperations.

Author: Christoph Baier

Christoph Baier matches Startups & innovative Companies for Cooperation & Open Innovation. He is Managing Director of Ambi-Vation and Co-Founder of founderio. His focus is on (Industrial) Internet of Things, CleanTech and Big Data and shares insights into the cooperation of startups and companies as a speaker or interview partner. Prior to that he studied Innovation Management & Entrepreneurship at TU Berlin, wrote his master thesis about the learning capability of B2B startups and the cooperation with external partners. During his studies he cofounded START Berlin and is now an alumni.

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