Unilever to invest further in start-up scene

Unilever has created a global platform aimed at connecting start-ups with its portfolio of brands.

Called the Unilever Foundry, the programme offers three key opportunities for participants.

Mentorship with global and regional marketing mentors on how to bring products from idea to market is one of these, said Marc Mathieu, Unilever senior vice president of global marketing.

“We hope to contribute to the entrepreneurial ecosystem and build businesses that might eventually become our global strategic partners,” he said. The second is project development, with start-ups able to pilot their ideas and proven technology with Unilever’s global brands. The programme first started in May 2014 in the UK, and since, the company has already launched or committed to launching 50 pilots with different start-ups around the world.

The third is funding and investment, available through Unilever Ventures, the venture capital arm of Unilever.

“The Unilever Foundry is our platform to harness, nurture and evolve thousands of innovative ideas from the entrepreneurial community,” said Mathieu. “It has simplified the way that small start-ups and entrepreneurs engage with a company of our size, offering an exciting opportunity for the best and brightest to pilot their technology with us.”

A launch event in Singapore will take place on January 15th at Mapletree Business City, where more than 300 marketing professionals and leaders from Asia’s start-up community will see a live showcase of these startups. These startups will have to go through an application process on the Unilever Foundry portal.

Unilever will maintain its theme of sustainability through The Unilever Foundry. Pitches at the Singapore launch event will be based on briefs that utilize innovative digital solutions for such issues as water quality and efficiency in laundry and dish washing, promoting hand washing in densely populated low-income urban environments, and engaging and inspiring kids to be more physically active and have fun in imaginative and adventurous ways.

Peter Ter Kulve, president of Unilever South East Asia and Australasia, said:“In our data-driven and connected world, forward thinking technology companies will play a vital role in helping our brands to engage with people in a meaningful way. By launching The Unilever Foundry in Singapore, we’re opening a direct line of communication with start-ups locally and across the region.”

Working closely with start-ups is one way major firms are looking to push innovation within their companies. One other example is Mondelez, which has a programme allowing its own employees to try their hand working at start-ups as well. (Read also: Can Mondelez: Hungry for change)

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