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Without SMEs Innovation is Slow and Stunted – Anup Sahoo, Founder of Ideapoke

Anup Sahoo and Sanjay Sahoo, childhood friends who later coincidentally became colleagues working on Innovation Management Software at 3M, the growing market opportunity for technology innovation triggered an ‘Idea’- Starting one of India’s first firms providing technology scouting, with the world’s technology information organized on one single platform! They together dreamt of establishing the ‘Google for Technology information’ and the World’s largest innovation network! What excited them further was addressing the ‘lack of innovation from India’ perception that was beginning to gain momentum at the same time.

Anup Sahoo, Founder of Ideapoke in an interview with Suman Prasad spoke in length on Open Innovation, how Ideapoke is an important platform for R&D professionals, Importance of SMEs in innovation, his future plans and many other interesting details.

Excerpts from the interview.

Q. Please provide overview of Ideapoke’s product/service?

Ideapoke is an open innovation platform where small firms can show case their technologies and large corporates can post their R&D requirements. In the back end Ideapoke discovery engine searches for matching technology providers and bring the new technologies to Ideapoke platform. Its online platform deploys proprietary technology using big data analytics and matching algorithms to crowd source technology partners across the globe and collaborate with the best solution providers, enabling customers solve their R&D and product development challenges. At its core, Ideapoke helps organizations to discover, connect, and collaborate with partners to solve business problems.

Q. What was the inspiration behind starting Ideapoke?

Prior to founding Ideapoke, I was a solution architect with 3M, where I lead and built the company’s enterprise collaboration software used by R&D, marketing and sales teams to interact with the external partners and vendors of 3M worldwide. There I realized that Innovation can come from anywhere and from any size of company. To realize this I felt the need to conceptualize a business platform which can facilitate Innovation as a Service.

Way back in 2012 when Sanjay (Sahoo, Co-founder) and I quit our well-paying MNC jobs to start ‘Ideapoke’ and when we spent the next one year merely developing a software, we were taking a huge career risk; for open innovation at that time was a concept that even large MNCs and corporates in developed markets like US were just beginning to consider. We though firmly believed the risk was worth it and we slowly but surely seem to be proving it right.

Q. What makes Ideapoke stand out from the competitors?

Leveraging open innovation is much more powerful than using any rigid process. The simplicity of democratizing innovation and connecting industries with the crème de la crème of technologies within the same intuitive ecosystem is that breakthrough discoveries and innovation can come from anywhere. That is where we stand out because we deliver the future.

Q. Why is Ideapoke an important platform for R&D professionals?

At a time, when new technology is released almost every day and when each new product or device launched is packed with the latest ground breaking technology, ‘Innovation’ has emerged to become a need that has both businesses and consumers alike reach for their wallets. Today, the world’s leading corporations, Government, investors and leading technology companies value an idea against its potential for commercialization in the market and recognize that a number of such ideas can emerge only from co-creation and collaboration.

  • To effectively scout for technologies and drive successful open innovation, Ideapoke can structure company profiles for information and analysis on their technology and innovations.
  • Provide on-demand analysis and recommendations of technology experts.
  • Build an innovation map and rank potential partners for technology value and business fit.

Companies no more have to wait for years or expend large amount of resources to find suitable technology partners who can help them with build innovative products and grow their revenues.

Q. How does Ideapoke connect both large and small firms involved in solving R&D problems?

Ideapoke has developed proprietary discovery engine to profile technologies and map appropriate technology solutions. We have various solutions based on the data that we collect like:

  • Technology Scouting – To find technology solution providers for specific innovation problems
  • Technology Landscaping – To provide overall technology landscape for an interest area.
  • Trigger Generator – Aggregate new technology innovations from various sources to come up with new innovative Ideas.
  • Enterprise Connect – Innovation Management Software for enterprises.
  • Open Innovation Gallery – A gallery to publish requirements and collect Ideas through crowd sourcing.

To look at the bigger picture, Ideapoke enables larger organizations accelerate R&D of its products by connecting them to firms which are either already at the end point of the particular product’s R&D or are well on their way. This crowd sourcing method of integrating technology solutions is what will drive innovation towards the future. Circa 2015, Ideapoke lists a database of 2.4 Million+ technologies, 180,000 companies across the globe doing niche R&D in different areas  and 2700+ universities globally and the database continues to double once in every six months. By end of 2016, Ideapoke aims to provide over 5 million technology innovation listings.

Q. Why do you think Indian companies are embracing open innovation?

It is becoming one of the processes of Innovation for large corporates. Increasingly large corporates are realizing the potential of collective intelligence of global talents. Startups are seeking access to the networks and customers of large companies and this ‘network effect’ if these MNCs take up mentorship through a public and private partnership model, then they can leverage amazing results through accelerated decision making, agility of processes and risk taking appetite. It’s important that corporate leaders participate with a compelling vision to embrace the win-win attitude.

Collaboration with SMEs de-risks financial bets on R&D through external investment and allows them to scout for next generation technologies and innovations. If the venture succeeds, they can in-source the innovation and exert stronger influence on the co-creation process. This creates a broad ecosystem of partners who jointly develop new technologies or market solutions to solve big and common problems.

Moreover, Ecosystem innovation enables enterprises to look beyond their four walls to bring in ideas more quickly, enhance their innovation programs. Joint innovation enables the partners to collaborate more broadly and maximize market opportunities more effectively than they could achieve independently.

Q. What is the current scenario of open innovation and crowd sourcing in India? Where does India stand in comparison to global market?

Governments getting into open innovation in a BIG way. It is defining policies focused on innovative collaborations and it is bound to go a long way. With services like Twitter Seva recently launched with the ‘Make in India’ and ‘Startup India’ in mind, there is now an open and transparent line of communication and a conversation can be started. Governments’ role in policy making and reforms in the business environment—reducing obstacles to business entry, lowering administrative costs of compliance, creating a level playing field and increasing transparency— are critical to facilitate the creation and growth of small enterprises, and subsequently their collaboration with large enterprises.

Mid-sized companies discovering benefits of going beyond their “existing networks” because as mentioned before, it is wise to collaborate as it offers greater access to potential markets, focused product quality, administrative equilibrium that can be instilled within the firm and of course a growth curve which may very well bring them on the international platform of innovation. Right now is a good time to be there.

Increasingly organizations want to be very public about engaging with the Global Innovation Community. Which is very positive because growth in the stock of standards may account to the growth of the market quality and productivity- namely providing with a competitive edge which is always good business.

Q. What kind of expertise do small companies bring in for the MNCs? Is there any kind of risk involved for MNCs collaborating with small organisations? Can they still be successful without the SMEs?

Co-creation harnesses the collective intelligence of customers, partners to accelerate innovation and shape products and services, and their employees to redefine both strategy and the organization. To create a successful Co-creation ecosystem, requires the support of external stakeholders, a supportive environment with the right culture, systems and processes.

RISK: Companies often resist open innovation since most managers and teams are unaware or scared about protecting company intellectual property. They also fear the outcome of trying to integrate a crowd sourced solution into corporate operations. Also the uncertainty of getting the right solution and the overall cost causes barriers and doubts into the mind of managers who are risk averse.

Without SMEs Innovation is Slow and Stunted. Startups with funding help launch ideas, through lower individual investment; and by sourcing garner ideas and solutions resulting in faster development of new products / services. Using the crowd for open innovation can actually be the game changer to increase brand value and get the next big breakthrough any company is looking for.

Q. What is your future plan?

With a growth rate of almost 30% MoM, Ideapoke is looking to capture 20-25% of the estimated USD7.3 billion market for open innovation over the next 4-5 years.

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