Thursday, April 30, 2015

Why Investing in Entrepreneurs is a Smart Innovation Strategy

Sikorsky’s Disruptive Technology Lead Says Big Companies Can Fill the Growing VC Gap

By Marc Dresner, IIR

Sikorsky Aircraft Corporation makes helicopters, and it’s probably not the first place one would expect to find a robust open innovation program.

After all, why would a multi-billion-dollar aerospace company known for its engineering brilliance need to look outside its own walls to innovate?

Jonathan Hartman
They have the talent, the resources…

But according to Jonathan Hartman, Sikorsky’s Disruptive Technology Lead, deep pockets and personnel aren’t enough for any company today.

“A singular, monolithic internal R&D architecture just doesn’t work anymore.”

“A singular, monolithic internal R&D architecture just doesn’t work anymore,” Hartman told me in an interview.

“You cannot keep up with all of the product cycles that are happening, so you have to venture out into an open innovation model,” he added.

Hartman says easy access for individuals to technology that used to constitute a competitive advantage for large corporations has democratized innovation.

“The gap has closed for anyone to innovate like a large corporation.”

“For the equivalent of a gym membership, I can wander in and use a multi-million-dollar machining facility. I can go online and utilize supercomputing technology…So the gap has closed for anyone to innovate like a large corporation,” he said.

Fortuitously for large companies, Hartman also notes available venture funding has been shrinking, which has enabled Sikorsky and other corporations to invest in entrepreneurs—much in the vein of VCs.

There’s a gap between what angel investors and VC can do and that’s really where corporations can fill that gap and help accelerate technological innovation,” he said.

“Your dollar goes further. You can do more with less and faster with entrepreneurs.”

Among other upsides, Hartman says investing in entrepreneurs can actually prove more efficient than spending the money internally.

“Your dollar goes further. You can do more with less and faster with entrepreneurs,” said Hartman.

In this episode of Forward Focus—FEI’s expert interview series—Jonathan Hartman discusses the trend of big companies investing in entrepreneurs to fuel innovation and how Sikorsky is putting it to work.

Check it out on FEI's YouTube Channel or watch below!

About Forward Focus
Forward Focus is a special interview series featuring thought leaders and experts at the forefront of innovation.

Forward Focus is brought to you by FEI 2015—the 13th annual Front End of Innovation conference—taking place May 18-20 in Boston.

For more information or to register, please visit

Marc Dresner is IIR USA’s sr. editor and special communication project lead. He is the former executive editor of Research Business Report, a trade publication for the marketing research and consumer insights industry. He may be reached at Follow him @mdrezz.

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