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Startup Refreshed: Why Coke is Joining the Entrepreneurial Revolution

By:  David Butler May 30, 2013
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David Butler, Coca-Cola’s VP of innovation, said the company is on a mission to unleash 100,000 more entrepreneurs around the world by partnering with organizations like UP Global.

We are entering a new era of innovation. It’s now easier than ever to communicate with and engage a global audience; to create and commercialize a new product or service; and to start a business.

Many experts believe this perfect storm of entrepreneurial stimuli is creating the next industrial revolution. Companies that adapt fast enough can revolutionize their industries and uncover new growth opportunities in other industries.

Coca-Cola wants to be one of those companies. And being part of this revolution means learning from and collaborating with others.

Last week, the Startup America Partnership and Startup Weekend teamed up to form UP Global, an organization committed to creating vibrant startup communities around the world by connecting entrepreneurs with the resources they need to be successful.

Coca-Cola is excited to support the UP Global network – which combines Startup America’s expertise with the impact and reach of Startup Weekend’s networking and hands-on collaboration programs – as its first non-technology partner (Microsoft and Google are also onboard).

Startup Weekend in San Francisco

Coca-Cola teams will support and participate in Startup Weekend events around the world.

Why? Because we believe we can help entrepreneurs succeed faster by bringing expertise in building billion-dollar brands and our 127-year legacy of innovation. Over the next year, we will mentor, support and participate in Startup Weekend events around the world, where engineers, designers, developers and other entrepreneurs in a specific community come together for 54 hours to network, learn new methods, and pitch and refine ideas.

Specifically, we hope to bring awareness and resources to the emerging “maker movement” of do-it-yourself entrepreneurs who are creating and marketing physical products as a result of access to services like 3-D printing, which make it easier than ever to build and launch new solutions. We will partner to deliver 10 maker-themed Startup Weekends, starting June 28-30 in Seattle. We’re even kick-starting this effort in a few weeks by hosting an internal Startup Weekend event here at Coke.

Our goal is to unleash 100,000 more entrepreneurs around the world and, as a result, support UP Global’s mission to empower sustainable communities. Because, as a global company operating on a local scale in 207 countries, that’s what we do. It’s in our DNA.

Innovation is also part of our DNA, dating back to Dr. John Pemberton, Asa Candler and Robert Woodruff. These forefathers – and the countless giants who have followed in their footsteps – built our brand and business by doing what all great entrepreneurs do: creating something out of nothing.

Yet despite the steps we continue to take to move the innovation needle, we know we can – and must – do more to adopt a startup mindset. Capturing the unprecedented opportunity we see ahead will require us to be more agile and to move faster.

Our partnership with UP Global is part of our renewed focus on entrepreneurship and business model innovation. We began this journey about 18 months ago by looking not only at our own innovation agenda, pipeline and processes, but also by learning the lean startup process and opening up to the entire startup ecosystem. That’s how we connected with Startup Weekend and, later, UP Global.

And we’re learning a lot from the startup community – from how they secure funding, to how they partner and collaborate, to how they go to market and drive growth, to how they “fail forward.” Because while we all cannot be entrepreneurs, everyone can think like entrepreneurs.

David Butler is vice president of innovation at The Coca-Cola Company.