Coca Cola Global Innovation Director Speaks at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week

By Sam Tabachnik, NOEW Correspondent for The Idea Village.

The Coca-Cola Company has a vast array of resources at its disposal but there’s one thing the worldwide leader in beverage doesn’t have: agility.

Ross Kimbel, Global Director of Innovation and Entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company, is trying to change that.

The Idea VillageThe 30-year-old innovator spoke to a packed house at New Orleans Entrepreneur Week about an initiative that he heads called Coca-Cola Founders, which is designed to recruit proven entrepreneurs and combine them with the company’s resources to develop new and lean business solutions.

The difference between corporations and startups, Kimbel said, boils down to scale versus agility. Companies like Coca-Cola have the size and scope to reach mass markets in virtually every country in the world, but startups are able to maneuver and implement new ideas quickly.

Coca-Cola Founders was created to combine the scale of a big corporation with the agility of a startup, he said.

The equation: repeat founders + Coca-Cola assets = new solutions.

The company has started these partnerships in cities around the world, from San Francisco to Tel Aviv to Rio de Janeiro.

In San Francisco, Kimbel said, Coca-Cola was having problems with stocking stores efficiently without money-draining lag time. So the founders program connected with an app company that designed an application for storeowners to alert Coca-Cola when they ran out of bottles.

“What’s often hard about a big corporation is that we have the scale, we have resources, to plan for months at a time, build a team and then launch,” Kimbel said.

“But what if we could start small, look for the shark-bite problem-to steal the lean startup method-and build a solution around that specific problem and test it, using the least amount of resources and the least amount of time.”

Kimbel says he sees a future where corporations and startups can work together to produce new solutions that neither could do on their own.

“There’s this whole new wave of entrepreneurship between corporations and startups that we haven’t even scratched the surface of,” he said. “We’re trying to unlock the assets of a corporate and make them available to a startup. I think you can do that for corporations, for governments, for cities, and the work so far we’ve seen is inspiring.”