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Being entrepreneurial: Lessons we learned from a tech start-up



What are success factors for great innovation? Out-of-the-box thinking, teamwork, clear objectives, and relevance – all of these things are vital. But, there’s another important element. Entrepreneurial spirit.


You might remember that a few months ago, Philips went to the South by Southwest (SXSW) tech festival in Texas, where we set out to meet people who share our passion for improving people’s lives.

One of the highlights of our time there was hosting the Philips Digital Innovation Challenge, where the American-based start-up Incomparable Things was awarded one week at our global headquarters in the Netherlands. 


Over the past few days, we’ve opened our doors to Incomparable Things, sharing our expertise in developing digital innovation strategies and roadmaps and creating value propositions and business models. In return, Incomparable Things provided important outside-in perspectives on our digital journey, giving us valuable insights to drive us even further on this path.

This was a unique opportunity for Incomparable Things to gain access to our knowledge and experience, but also a chance for us to learn from a talented team of digital entrepreneurs. Alex Howell, CEO of Incomparable Things was spot on when saying: “Amazing to think that a company of 115,000 people and a start-up of three guys can have a fruitful conversation about designing digital solutions.”


This kind of two-way dialog is the behavior and culture that Philips thrives on. Even though we are a global company, benefitting from the resources and scale that comes with this position, sometimes we need to behave with the agility of a start-up.

In our Google Hangout session, Alex Howell from Incomparable Things and James Scott from our digital innovation partner AKQA discussed the challenges start-up companies face when looking for the next big thing. Lessons were exchanged that are just as applicable for larger companies like Philips, with this statement of James Scott in particular: “You are most vulnerable right after your biggest success, and you are most entrepreneurial when you are backed into a corner.”


Especially in the digital innovation area, which evolves at remarkable speed, I believe innovation cannot be done in isolation. Utilizing external expertise is crucial, and luckily something we are used to. Ever since Anton and Gerard Philips founded our company – something we would call a start-up now – Philips has engaged in collaborative partnerships designed to share experiences and knowledge, ensuring we stay at the forefront of innovation.


To remain entrepreneurial at heart, we have to continue to place ourselves in a different mindset, to ask questions and share ideas, and to recognize that despite being one of the biggest brands in the world, we are still learning and growing every day.

Antonio Hidalgo

Chief Strategy and Innovation Officer, Consumer Lifestyle (until September 2014)

Antonio joined Philips in 2009 as Chief Technology Officer and executive member of the Consumer Lifestyle Management Team and became Chief Innovation, Marketing and Strategy Officer in 2011. Antonio left Philips at the end of 2014 to explore other opportunities.


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