Your matchmaking partner in the Nordics - Case Kimberly-Clark

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Written by:
Elina Kajosaari
Corporate Venturing Lead

The Nordic startup ecosystem boasts an impressive combination of innovation and talent, making it a very attractive location for corporations seeking for business opportunities.

We had the pleasure of working with Kimberly-Clark Corporation’s open innovation team in their search for breakthrough innovation partners in the Nordics last fall. Kimberly-Clark’s brands provide “everyday essentials” to serve the health, hygiene and wellness of people around the world in more than 175 countries.

“Kimberly-Clark uses open innovation to search for both technologies (what is emerging in the world that can impact our businesses) and start-up companies that are developing businesses that complement our strategic mission. We are also very interested in what new experiences and influences from the world of smart products and technology are engaging our consumers so we can anticipate emerging needs,” explains Joe Fell, Head of Breakthrough Innovation unit at Kimberly-Clark.

There are many ways to find a suitable startup partnership and to make it work. What’s in a corporate-startup collaboration for each party? How do we find that perfect match?

A fast-track for startups

Corporations can offer startups a unique opportunity to accelerate and expand their business by granting access to resources that exist beyond traditional tangible assets.

What does Kimberly-Clark offer for the startups in collaboration?

“Our approach is one of flexibility – we sell products in 175 counties and for consumers from babies (Huggies diapers) to seniors (Depend brand). With this type of diverse business footprint there are many ways to impact our businesses. In general, our objective is to find propositions of merit and quickly get them into the hands of consumers, as this is the ultimate test of value.”

How to find the perfect match

Finding successful corporate startup partnerships requires dedication: a clear vision of what you’re looking for along with careful planning before approaching any potential partners. Working with Kimberly-Clark, we began the search by going through their strategic focus areas in order to understand exactly what we were looking for.

Searching for partners in the dynamic startup landscape is a challenging mission, something where a local network and understanding is of a massive benefit. Our role at Avanto is to harness the reach of our Nordic network in order to find the most suitable matches to our client’s strategic needs.

“We scout for opportunities globally, and leveraged Avanto’s experience to distill our search briefs and bring in successful matches from their network - even when the startup itself didn’t see the initial connection or relevance”, explains Mr. Fell.

After the search scope with Kimberly-Clark was clarified, we dived deep into our sources to find the most viable opportunities. We presented the opportunities and actively iterated them with the Kimberly-Clark team on a daily basis. As a result we had a shortlist of potential startups with whom we’d start a conversation.

At Avanto we take pride in always keeping in mind the importance of business opportunities for startups. We value the time and effort put into these meetings by all parties, including startups, and therefore always ensure that our client is capable of bringing real value to the startups as well.

Collaboration at its best. Team Kimberly-Clark & Avanto in Copenhagen.

Collaboration at its best. Team Kimberly-Clark & Avanto in Copenhagen.

What came out of it?

Based on the short list, we introduced Kimberly-Clark to a number of startups from across the Nordic countries, all involved in improving consumer wellness. The purpose and impact of all of the solutions was obvious, resulting in a significant bonus factor for the collaboration. Supporting these companies on their journey brings so much additional value; not only for business but also for the wider social community.

What were the key takeaways for Kimberly-Clark from this visit to Nordics?

 “We find the Nordic community a good resource for new ideas and start-ups. Events like Slush highlight this entrepreneurial culture and programs like those at VTT enable companies through fundamental technology development,” says Andrew Long, Technical Leader on the Applied Electronics team at Kimberly-Clark.

The goal of matchmaking is to find partnerships where both the startup and corporation can reach new heights in serving their customers. This kind of partnership is not easy to find, therefore it’s vital to take an active role making these relationships happen.