A fellow Atlanta-based global company is joining forces with Coca-Cola to take an IT startup commercialization program even further. Turner Broadcasting System Inc. this week announced a partnership with The Coca-Cola Company to sponsor The Bridge during a showcase event at Coca-Cola headquarters.

The Bridge began two years ago as a partnership between Coca-Cola and startup technology entrepreneurs who are challenged to design, implement and integrate their IT concepts to solve challenges companies like Coke face. The partnership now includes Turner, which will extend its resources to help further advance The Bridge.

“The addition of another major global company will not only expand opportunities for entrepreneurs but also provide additional support and business perspective for Coca-Cola throughout the program,” said Alan Boehme, Chief Technology Officer at Coca-Cola.

The five areas startups focus on during The Bridge are consumer engagement, consumer retail, supply chain, marketing innovation and health & wellness. Participants are early-stage companies with innovative software technology solutions. Turner will officially start its sponsorship for the 2016 class of startups, but it has already witnessed The Bridge’s potential to deliver meaningful business solutions.

“We have already identified ways we can enhance our business through The Bridge, so we are especially excited to now be directly involved with the program,” said Jeremy Legg, chief technology officer at Turner. “Our partnership with Coke will certainly open more doors for startups.”

To date, 19 entrepreneurs have participated in The Bridge, with nine startups in the 2015 class, known as “The Bridge II”. The showcase marked the end of their extensive, yet brisk, experience of transforming what was once an idea into functional technology that is commercially viable in six months. During the event, the entrepreneurs demonstrated their products to Coca-Cola, Turner, venture capitalists, as well as global customers and partners, in hopes of securing a contract or selling their technology.

“With a background in telecom and IT, I knew how to sell to users, but I never had to sell to branded customers,” said Liat Sade-Sterberg, CEO of Fusic, one of the startups in The Bridge. “Starting with the best-known brand helped me learn that. Our first customer ever is Fanta – so wow.”

The Bridge Leaders

Alan Boehme, Chief Technology Officer at The Coca-Cola Company (left), and Jeremy Legg, Chief Technology Officer at Turner Broadcasting System, Inc., toast to a new partnership in an IT startup commercialization program called The Bridge, which Coca-Cola launched in 2013. 

Credit: Amy Sparks


 

Bridging the Gaps One Startup at a Time

This year’s nine startups generated technology as diverse and creative as the markets in which Coca-Cola operates. Examples include using mobile devices to visualize 3D objects in a room or store (Cimagine) and enabling music fans to lip-sync duets with their favorite artists (Fusic). And because of Coca-Cola and Turner’s reach and resources, these entrepreneurs can transform their ideas into real technology for real markets in real time.

Take Fusic for instance. CEO Liat Sade-Sterberg describes it as a social video platform that takes the selfie and Karaoke to the next step. To test the technology, Fanta sponsored two pop artists so fans could lip-sync along; within the first few days, Fusic had 50,000 views. To date, the site has about 20 million impressions with users spending an average of 16 minutes on the app – a substantial time investment in the realm of mobile technology.

“Everyone wants to be stars,” Sade-Sterberg explained. “A lot of us love to have fun, to sing with your friends, and now you can share it.”   

Lip-syncing may not seem like an essential element of Turner or Coca-Cola’s bottom line, but in a highly competitive global business environment, creative marketing is crucial. Fusic offers a distinctive way to do that.

“We’ve seen great results from these companies,” said Anthony Newstead, The Bridge co-founder and global general manager. “Fusic is just one of our successful partners in The Bridge. The fact that it made such gains in just one run demonstrates the viability of this program.”

Aside from reeling in ladies to sing their favorite tunes – 70 percent of Fusic users are women ages 18 to 24 – The Bridge start-ups crossed into other unique technologies and tools.  

Cimagine Co-founder Nir Daube created Cimagine’s 3D technology to revolutionize the shopping experience by providing a tool to visualize products in any location in the most realistic way possible. Imagine rearranging your living room virtually before ever moving a single piece of furniture – or for Coca-Cola, positioning equipment or marketing materials in a store without physically moving them. Cimagine’s 3D imagery allows users to project objects in real time into the room so they can see how they will look and fit.

“Seeing is believing,” Daube said. “When people see something, they tend to have a better opinion of it and understanding of it. We would like to be the product for product visualization, regardless of what it is.”

Just a month ago, Cimagine started testing its technology in five Coca-Cola markets. It has already saved the Company and some of its bottling partners time and money, reducing sales representatives’ visits to plan and place equipment in stores from three days to one day. The sales reps using the technology also experienced a 20 percent boost in sales of coolers and equipment overall, with 92 percent success of a sale when using the technology to engage a customer.

“We’re looking for startups to either save money or help make us money, or improve the revenue or save on cost,” said Gabby Czertok, The Bridge co-founder and general manager. “Every technology we find, we’re trying to link it to a business problem, whether it’s placement of equipment, improving our market, improving our supply chain, or improving our work with partnerships.”

Czertok saw Cimagine’s 3D technology at work firsthand when he happened to be a customer. While shopping at a convenience store in Tel Aviv, the store owner asked for his opinion on the placement of a cooler.  

“I just opened the app on my phone and showed him exactly what the cooler would look like,” Czertok said. “He was so pleased and thankful. Technology like this is just one example of the incredible work these start-ups deliver, and I’m so proud of the work they do to make our company better.”

The Bridge

Ran Beit On, Co-founder and Chief Technology Officer of BePart, demonstrates his company’s technology during The Bridge showcase at Coca-Cola headquarters.

Credit: Amy Sparks


 

The Bridge’s Next Crossing

The next step for The Bridge is to replicate the model in other markets. The goal is to expand in markets such as the U.S., Europe, Africa, the Pacific and Latin America by identifying and supporting start-ups that match the needs of Coca-Cola, Turner and their partners.

“There is no doubt that this program lives up to its name – The Bridge builds partnerships and links communities that truly need each other,” Boehme said. “Considering the success we’ve had in just the first two years, I am eager to see what the future brings, especially as we advance into new markets.”

The partnership with Turner is key to The Bridge’s expansion, as there will be even more resources available to aspiring startups in markets around the world.

“Learning from the Bridge is something we are focused on as we begin this partnership,” Legg said. “Seeing that one market has delivered this much promise shows us at Turner that there are an unlimited number of opportunities to tap into the innovative spirit and talent around the world.”