In the world of mobile transportation apps, Uber is the standard by which all others are judged. It allows a customer to order a ride, pay for that ride, and track the driver’s location from the time the order is placed until that person arrives for pickup -- all from the convenience of a smartphone. Bringg is offering a similar service to the shipping industry, changing the way people do business in the new on-demand economy – and is just one example of The Bridge in action.
A cloud-based service platform, Bringg enables customers, who range from small mom and pop grocery stores to international mega-corporations, to order an item and then track it from the time it’s entered into the Bringg app to the moment the delivery person arrives at the customer’s door. Businesses can better manage their mobile workforce, gaining insight into the location of drivers and packages, while providing customers with real-time updates on precisely when their deliveries will arrive.
“The delivery world is changing because customers are becoming more sophisticated and expecting more,” says cofounder and CEO Raanan Cohen. “Our tools help customers evolve and keep up.”
And none of it would have been possible without the guidance and support of The Bridge by Coca-Cola program. “We’d probably still be just another company with code if we hadn’t joined The Bridge program,” admits Cohen. “We certainly wouldn’t have gotten so far, so fast.”
Bringg CEO Raanan Cohen at Coca-Cola headquarters in February 2015. The Bridge hosted an innovation showcase in Atlanta where the startups had the opportunity to demo their product or service to a packed house of venture capitalists, independent investors, friends and partners of Coca-Cola, and Coke business leaders. Read the story.
Giving Tech Startups a Boost
With Coca-Cola’s IT organization already playing a critical role in driving business growth for the company, it seemed only natural for them to expand their footprint further by launching The Bridge by Coca-Cola—an incubator program ‘with a twist’ in Tel-Aviv, Israel—in July of last year. The Bridge is essentially a commercialization program for early stage software technology startups, designed to help bridge the gap between local entrepreneurial communities and major global markets, including Europe, Africa, Eurasia, the Pacific and the United States, especially.
Anthony Newstead, Co-Founder and Global General Manager of The Bridge, detailed how participating startups like Bringg were already benefitting from the program. “The Bridge offers two unique and exciting aspects that leverage Coca-Cola’s strengths: branding advice, positioning, story-telling, target audience identification from experts within the Coca-Cola system on one hand and on the other the opportunity for these companies to trial their products and services within the Coca-Cola organization globally and possibly win Coca-Cola as a customer,” Newstead explained last year.
In return, the beverage giant was asking for first-mover advantage on the products and services being nurtured in the program, which meant Coca-Cola had first access on the technology for a limited period. After that, the startups were free to sell their wares to anyone. The startups were not required to surrender any equity and were allowed to maintain ownership of their intellectual property. “They provided the idea, a great team with execution abilities and an initial product, and we provided guidance and information targeted toward helping the startups commercialize successfully within Coca-Cola and beyond,” Newstead said at the time.
Jump ahead almost a year, and the program is already a resounding success, continuing to deliver dividends to Coca-Cola. “Within six months, we had 17 pilot programs running across Coca-Cola. For Coca-Cola to be able to deploy pilots so quickly and for a startup to be able to secure a pilot with a company as big as Coca-Cola so quickly was exciting for both sides” says Gabby Czertok, Cofounder and General Manager of The Bridge in Israel. That means that within 6 months, Coca-Cola was testing to see if the services and technologies in the program could be used to solve 17 different problems within the family with several of the startups. “Now we have 26 pilots running from the first program, and three of the startups have signed licensing agreements with us in multiple markets,” enthuses Czertok.
Entrepreneurs listen to Coca-Cola's Ed Steinike's presentation on 'How to Sell to a CIO.'
A Direct Benefit to Coca-Cola
Bringg is, naturally, one of those companies. “We are helping Coca-Cola add an on-demand layer to its massive distribution network, to hopefully address the company’s ‘out of stock’ problem,” explains Bringg’s Cohen. The concept is simple: Say a consumer goes into his local market to buy a Coca-Cola beverage, but what he wants is out of stock. Bringg allows the store to switch from a planned delivery route every three to four days to a more on-demand service. “They can punch up the app and have that beverage delivered to the store in four hours or less,” explains Cohen.
While this might sound like a simple fix to an ordinary problem, it could have a significant financial impact on Coca-Cola. Out-of-stock scenarios like the one above can cost Coca-Cola and other CPG companies billions of dollars in sales, according to Cohen. “Bringg has the potential to dramatically reduce average out-of-stock scenarios,” says Coca-Cola’s Newstead, resulting in considerable cost savings to the company and its distributors.
The Bridge Moves Into Year Two
Today, The Bridge’s sophomore effort is well under way with nine new startups. What’s more, the curriculum has evolved to better suit the needs of the startup communities. “Since we are dealing with very talented and smart entrepreneurs, we used them as part of our learning process to improve the program and, just like any startup, we’ve improved and reiterated based on the feedback received to make the second round even more effective for them and us” explains Czertok.
First, they needed more sales and negotiation training. “What we discovered, in most cases, was that the negotiation style and sales capabilities of the startups were very different than the ones the corporation was used to,” says Czertok. Coca-Cola helped the startups hone their negotiation skills and taught them how to adapt their delivery to the needs of the corporation, without overextending their limited resources.
Advestor Co-Founder and CEO Amir Bahalul at a Bridge session.
In addition, storytelling and positioning were adapted to be more practical. “Last year we provided training about Coca-Cola and its approach to branding,” says Czertok. "Now, we’ve added several workshops that do a deep dive into the startup’s brand and their story to be told, so we use tools and skillsets developed in Coca-Cola by the best experts in the world and apply them to the startup world, allowing them to fine tune the story that is being told by them and have it stand on a wider base of their newly created brand. Based on feedback from last year’s startups, this is the area they needed the most help and got the best results,” adds Newstead.
Finally, the program has taken the practical lessons learned from the exposure to dozens of Coca-Cola executives and incorporated them into the process the startups go through. “We invite the companies to use their existing pitches in front of “friendly” stakeholders who are part of our executive community and then afterward, they talk with the person they just pitched to get real feedback. This type of training is delivering back to our business, helping us retain that innovative edge to build our pipeline,” explains Newstead.
Another major change is that Coca-Cola is also looking at opening The Bridge to non-competing commercial partners, inviting them to join. In Tel-Aviv, we’ve received numerous queries and visits by large multinational corporations asking to learn more about the model, and we’ve been using these visits in order to help our startups, as well. When such companies come to learn about The Bridge, they meet the startups and several startups have already reached very interesting opportunities through these connections, “ says Czertok, “We’ve now decided to open up The Bridge as an opportunity for partner companies to join a program already in existence with growing credibility and share in its success, helping collectively to enhance the program,” adds Newstead.
The Screemo team at a Bridge by Coca-Cola reception on a rooftop in Tel Aviv.
From the startups’ perspective, this is promising news, as it will provide a variety of - viewpoints on how to do business: “They’re going to get great marketing training from Coca-Cola,” says Newstead. “They’ll receive storytelling training from company X, and media training from company Y, together with the opportunity for entering into pilots and potential agreements across any of the partner companies, including Coca-Cola.”
For the commercial partners, it’s a great way for them to connect with startups that have been through such training and experience and are easier and faster to work with than startups who are meeting a big corporation for the first time and surface interesting solutions that can help their businesses for a very modest cost—without trying to reinvent the (often quite costly) wheel.
Sophomore Season Standouts Emerge
Coca-Cola has great expectations for The Bridge’s sophomore class in Tel-Aviv. In fact, after only a few months, one company has already been selected through Coca-Cola's competitive RFP process and is now in a formal evaluation and agreement discussion with the company, with four pilots recently activated around the world.
Cimagine is using cutting-edge augmented reality technology to revolutionize interior design. Its app allows users to drop three-dimensional images of furniture into any environment, helping shoppers see exactly what an armchair, for example, will look like in their family room before they buy it.
“Our technology scans your room, then places a 3-D model of the item you’re interested in buying into any environment,” says Nir Daube, cofounder and vice president of product for Cimagine. “You can then reposition it where you like and walk around to get a look at the different angles. This is all done to scale, so you can see if that new sofa fits in your living room.”
Founded in 2012, Nir Daube and Cimagine aim to be the first to bring augmented reality to the world of ecommerce.
Instead of helping Coca-Cola choose furniture for corporate offices, Cimagine is helping the company optimize its point of sale efforts. “The program has been modified to serve as a tool for sales reps to help improve the presence of Coca-Cola products in a grocery store, movie theater, or theme park, for example,” says Daube. “The rep has the ability to scan the real estate, then place any cooler in any location within that environment, as well as show how to stack the product for more exposure. They can even change colors.”
In addition to partnering with Coca-Cola, Cimagine has recently inked a deal with the U.K.’s fourth-largest online retailer, Shop Direct, to bring its solution directly to the consumer.
'It's a Win-Win Situation for Everyone'
In the future, Coca-Cola hopes to grow a community of corporate partners, VCs and other potential investors, benefiting from and participating in the same rewards the company has seen over the past eighteen months. Alan Boehme, Chief Technology Officer and Chief Enterprise Architect, notes that, “Building bridges between commercial enterprises, in communities and between people, is something that never goes out of style. The Coca-Cola Bridge program has just started its journey of bringing people and business together. We are looking forward to adding new locations, opening our program to other corporate partners and making new friends as we continue to grow this unique innovation experience in a true “win-win” manner. After all, Coca-Cola has already found and filtered potential gems, and companies can only benefit from this legwork." Meanwhile, Coca-Cola will focus on growing the program. “We can mentor more startups by leveraging the expertise of partners,” says Newstead. “It’s a win-win situation for everyone.”
Entrepreneurs learn about Coca-Cola in Bridge expert sessions.