Why CPG Giant Unilever Is On The Hunt For 50 Marketing Startups To Bring to Lions Innovation In Cannes

Unilever Foundry, the consumer goods giant’s initiative to forge partnerships with startups, is looking for the world’s top 50 marketing and advertising startups to bring to Lions Innovation, which takes place June 25-26 inside the famous Cannes Lions festival.

The Foundry will give the selected startups passes to Lions Innovation and cover two nights’ stay at a hotel — in addition to a chance to “speed-date” with senior marketers and pitch on the Unilever Foundry stage at Lions Innovation. It’s an unprecedented program from a corporation that is already a leader in corporate innovation.

KITE recently touched base with Jeremy Basset, who runs the Unilever Foundry, to learn more about The Foundry 50.

KITE: What was the inspiration for bringing 50 startups to Lions Innovation?

Jeremy Basset: We’ve been working with startups for many years now, and the one thing we’ve realized is that startups are pioneering the future of marketing. We also realize that startups are not only transforming marketing at Unilever, but they’re disrupting our industry. Foundry 50 @ Lions Innovation has one ambition: to fast track the evolution of the marketing industry by connecting industry to the pioneers. The faster the marketing industry can engage with startups and embrace their technology, the more we’ll see the caliber of investment, capability and focus behind these startups grow.

KITE: The Foundry 50 site says you’re looking for companies that are “truly disruptive – clearly differentiated versus what’s already on the market.” What will persuade you (and the judges) that a startup fits this description?

Jeremy Bassett judging KITE's startup pitch competition at SXSW Interactive 2015.
Jeremy Bassett judging KITE’s startup pitch competition at SXSW Interactive 2015.

Basset: When we say that startups are pioneering the future, what we mean is that they’re disrupting current ways of working based on two key measures: they’re either more efficient than traditional incumbents, or they’re being more effective by introducing new, innovative ways to engage with the people we serve. Primarily we’re assessing companies on these two criteria (effectiveness and efficiency), but of course we’re also looking for strong teams, ambitious visions, technology that’s ready to be scaled and relevance to the industry. This is a global search, so we’re also looking for startups from around the world, and from across the various sectors of ‘marketing & advertising’ tech.

KITE: Please share more about the pitch format you’re planning for the startups and senior marketers at Lions Innovation.

Basset: One of the things that makes Cannes unique is the serendipitous interactions that occur, so it’s important that startups are always ready to engage and pitch. But in addition to the serendipitous, there will also be a chance to speed date with industry leaders (5 minutes per rotation) and pitch on the Unilever Foundry demo stage. Startups will have 3 minutes to pitch, with several minutes for Q&A. The point of these short pitches is to ensure high-level of engagement among the audience and to whet the appetite for industry leaders to carry on conversations with startups in a less formal setting.

KITE: What kind of outcomes would you like to see from this program?

Basset: Ultimately we’d like to see the industry wholeheartedly putting startups at the center of their marketing and innovation strategies. Specifically from Cannes though, we’re looking for relationships to be built, for industry leaders to begin engaging and mentoring startups, and for those relationships to move on to having startup tech being piloted with other big brands.

KITE: Would you consider a Foundry 50 for CES or other major events?

Basset: We’re on a mission to elevate the profile of startups, and to challenge the marketing and advertising industry to collaborate, experiment and pioneer; so we would always be seeking out opportunities that allow us to achieve that mission. However, Cannes is unique because it brings together 12,000+ industry leaders from around the world — giving startups a rare opportunity to engage with the industry, and for the whole of the industry to engage with startups.

Startups interested in participating must apply by Friday, April 30th. Finalists will be announced by Monday, May 25.

Learn about opportunities like this by signing up for KITE’s monthly startup newsletter today.

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