All Silicon Valley Insights

Silicon Valley – A Goldmine for Corporate Innovation

By Paula Salomaa, Advisor Business Finland (originally published 21.9.2018 by Business Finland)

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Go to any Palo Alto cafeteria and hear startups pitching to investors, or seasoned executives coaching newcomers, talk to your Uber driver and find out how she is bootstrapping a startup by driving extra time, hear the latest big-tech news from other parents in the playground, and meet researchers over a morning jog at Stanford Dish. Everybody here is somehow connected in tech business and innovation ecosystem.

Over the last decades both American and international enterprises have started to send their technology scouts to San Francisco Bay Area – companies want to be part of this inspiring and ubiquitous Silicon Valley mindset and the environment.  The newly formed Corporate Innovation Hubs have different strategic goals, operational models, sizes, and forms – but they all are here to catch the next big thing.

Innovation Hub is a scouting outpost that gives value to home base by supporting headquarters’ strategic mission. A strategic mission nowadays often covers themes around digitalization, customer experience reform, or business model disruptions. Activities supporting strategic goals vary widely, for example, startup or research relationship building, talent or investment opportunity scouting, technology trend or emerging market follow up or future watch. 

A continuously growing number of Nordic tech companies have operations in San Francisco Bay Area, but the most significant motivation for choosing that location is to have marketing and sales close to their US West Coast customers and potential markets. Some of the companies have R&D activities there too. However, it seems that only a few of the existing Bay Area Nordic companies have decided the location based on their strategic, third horizon innovation goals.

”Two weeks of visit to Silicon Valley is not learning. You’ve to be part of the ecosystem. Be here.”

- Patrick Rumpel, Head of Audi TechHub

Nordic companies come to Silicon Valley for week-long excursions and technology/product scouting trips, which could be pre- innovation outpost activities. The more concrete interest towards Corporate Innovation Hubs has started to grow, and number of Nordic companies are considering that option, and some of them have already tested innovation initiatives in the area. San Francisco based entrepreneurs and business executives encourage their colleagues to take the needed steps, set up an Innovation Hub and try innovation oriented concepts. ”Two weeks of visit to Silicon Valley is not learning. You’ve to be part of the ecosystem. Be here.” As said by Patrick Rumpel, Head of Audi TechHub.

It’s always fun to meet visiting Nordic business groups and see how they get excited about Silicon Valley energy, absorb refreshing insight from locals and grow their network, or enjoy the local Finnish Sauna Bus. We hope, that also these visits ignite more serious interest to reflect if Silicon Valley is The Place for them.

Innovation hubs are not for every corporation, but larger and growth potential entities should evaluate that option and do an educated decision: What is the role of innovation in their growth strategy? Can they cover innovation activities without a dedicated innovation program in Silicon Valley or another innovation cluster?

The on-going trend, and signals from the local ecosystem and Finnish corporate executives motivated Business Finland to produce The Corporate Innovation Hubs in SF Bay Area –report, relevant for all Nordic companies to review. Read more about the report in Market Opportunities !