An interview with Beatrice de Mahieu: Startups are from Venus - Corporates are from Mars

"A collective agility is needed in order to build-measure-learn and book progress." says Beatrice de Mahieu, Chief Innovation Officer at Co.Station Belgium. Read the entire interview below!

With 20 years long experience in digital marketing services and campaign strategy, Beatrice de Mahieu is Chief Innovation Officer at Co.Station Belgium
Co.Station aims to develop the digital ecosystem in Belgium by stimulating the spirit of enterprise, providing the tools to favor innovation and growth, and facilitating exchanges between corporates and the start-up/scale-up community. 

We had the pleasure of having her as a speaker at Startarium PitchDay. Her keynote, 'Startups are from Venus - Corporates are from Mars', was about collaboration between large corporates and tech startups in Europe in order to foster innovation together.

What are the risks and challenges for both in these collaboration models? And what are the collaboration models from both the corporate wanting to enter new markets or adopt new business models, and the startup to develop their product and of course, to scale? 

What are some of your thoughts on the Romanian startup ecosystem, after your experience in Bucharest? How do you feel it compares to your own local community?

► First, I always had very nice contacts with the Romanian community. Of course, I’m mainly focusing on tech startups in Belgium, so I will speak in regard to this community: I would to see more Romanian startups creating real IP. They are a lot in the web-dev supporting sphere, and less in the real creation of new IP. I suppose this will come with a more mature market?

You've attended quite a few events dedicated to the startup community, as is Startarium PitchDay. What do you think are the main gains/benefits an entrepreneur can draw from them? What about those from the corporate world?

► As an entrepreneur or intrapreneur, you have to step out of the building, out of your comfort zone. Go outside, network, talk to people, see potential possibilities etc… Practicing your elevator pitch will also help you to finetune your story and how it is perceived by a potential client. So I would recommend to all: select the events where you would like to go, and set for yourself also clear goals on what the main take-aways you would like to have from that event. Time is a precious resource, you should use it wisely!

Co.Station has become a nation-wide catalyst of corporate-startup collaboration in Belgium in a very short time. What makes working with you so valuable for startups on one side and corporations on the other? What sets you apart from the other connectors and ecosystem players?

► Open Innovation is still in a quiet early phase a bit everywhere… So organisations that can help with building the right links between the right people are needed.

I’m continuously in contact with both corporates and entrepreneurs, but also tech research centers and universities. This helps me to have a clear view of the needs and offers from the full tech ecosystem, and see how consortiums can be created between these stakeholders in order to start building use cases that can evolve to new products, services, and companies

The challenge of joining startups and big business players often lies in matching and adapting their views and agendas. Can you share one "favourite" story of that alignment happening through Co.Station?

► I often receive the question from innovation corporate leaders, that “they want to meet startups”. When asked like that, my answer it that I cannot help with this. A clear understanding of the need and problem, and the “why” of meeting startups is the first crucial step. And once this is clear, then it’s possible to map and structure startup talents to meet.

Otherwise, it’s a bit like going for shopping clothes with no clue what you need and what you would like to spend. Sure you will buy some things, but these are the items that 1 year later, you will notice they still have the price-tag on it and you never have worn them!

For corporate intrapreneurs seeking to navigate the complexity of starting up in an already complex organisation, clarity and vision are vital, but difficult to achieve. How do you build that?

► There is already a paradox in these 2 words: clarity and vision. :) A vision is necessary in innovation and intrapreneurship, but leaders and teams need to keep certain agility in order to be able to cope with change and customer feedback while iterating the project. Rigidity will lead to failing the project. While being structured in the methodology, you have to make your teams aware that collective agility is needed in order to build-measure-learn and book progress.

Not all companies are specifically focused on building new products. How can work with startups foster innovation and increased competitiveness in their industry?

► It’s indeed not only about building new things, but it can be a perfect collaboration to impact the “building the things right” mindset and processes. It’s about openness to different ways of thinking, about mindset, about continuous learning from all. When opening an organisation on being curious for these “other individuals” being entrepreneurs, it shows the teams that we all can learn from one another.


Watch Beatrice's keynote from Startarium PitchDay:


You can read the highlights of Startarium PitchDay - Life's a pitch and then you win right here!

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