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Startups and Corporations: The Future of Innovation

  • 4 min read
  • Insight

Earlier last month, I had the opportunity to participate in the MIT Startup Exchange Silicon Valley Showcase entitled “The New Machines of Industry,” and I’ll admit I got pretty excited by all the groundbreaking partnerships I saw represented in the room. The event, hosted by GE Business Innovations, was attended by more than 100 people representing 60 companies, and looking at the audience got me thinking about the ways we’re working with startups to truly industrialize innovation and deliver on the hype surrounding the next industrial revolution.

In my opinion, by fostering the corporate-startup symbiosis, we’re helping to drive that revolution. Not every corporation is enamored with startups, but maybe they should be. Sure, startups are disrupting business models and increasing the pace of change, but that just means corporations need to embrace disruption. While they’re at it, they should also embrace an important new mantra: The pace of change will never be slower than it is today. In other words, corporations need to internalize the values of speed and disruption that are hallmarks of startup culture.  

That’s one reason GE has invested in more than 100 startups and started over seven new companies spanning sectors from energy to advanced manufacturing and from enterprise to healthcare. The investment doesn’t just help the startups grow and scale, it also helps us maintain our place in the innovation ecosystem. Yes, we get a financial return on our investment, but we also get strategic value that come with access to the entrepreneurial mindset.   

Through the right partnerships, we keep our finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the marketplace. At the same time, partnerships also require us to look inward and determine how we can use our own products and organizational resources to add value to what our partner is doing.

A good example of the advantages of partnering comes from GE Ventures’ work with Arterys, a startup focused on helping radiologists do their job more efficiently through a cloud-based medical imaging analytics platform powered by artificial intelligence. The Arterys platform not only uses cutting-edge technology to reduce the time it takes to capture and deliver images to radiologists, but also uses AI to improve the quality of images doctors see. By utilizing deep learning the platform can train itself to get better at eliminating artifacts and distortions, providing doctors with clearer scans in less time. The end result? Radiologists who can serve more patients with greater accuracy.  

GE, with our expertise in medical imaging gleaned from decades as an industry leader, understood the problem statement. Specifically, how can we compete in a changing environment where selling groundbreaking scanning services will soon be as important as selling a state of the art scanner? We looked for a partner who had an idea that was well positioned to help solve the problem. That was Arterys, so we chose to work with them to finalize a best in class end solution. We knew that, together, we could be an example of innovation living up to the hype.

By partnering with Arterys, GE has the chance to completely change the current thinking about medical imaging. And by working with other startups, we have similar opportunities to change the way the world thinks about everything from energy to communications. We’ll keep working with startups because they keep us looking at the really big problems, the ones that make a company think in transformational terms.

In short, our involvement with startups will continue to go beyond just looking at numbers on a spreadsheet. We’ll continue to invest in the game-changing startups of the future, because the arrangement is strategic. We’ll also keep looking in the mirror and asking the question we think every corporate player should be asking themselves:

How are you leveraging the entrepreneurial mindset to energize your company?