Collaboration between large organisations and start-ups has become crucial. Organisations bring economies of scale, market knowledge, resources and capital, while start-ups bring deep domain experts and short innovation cycles, inventing new business models with speed.
This fusion creates new solutions for complex customer problems to help us shape tomorrow. It’s why we welcomed three Entrepreneurs in Residence to our Future Business team in June.
Jeremy Brook is one of those entrepreneurs.
‘An Entrepreneur in Residence is someone who gets really excited by solving difficult problems in a fresh way,’ he said. ‘They have the mindset of a business owner and focus on customer problems that will deliver value in three plus years’ time.’
|WHAT IS FUTURE BUSINESS?|
|Our Future Business team identifies and incubates growth opportunities for AGL in collaboration with the broader business. We talk to customers, start-ups, the investment community, and other innovative thinkers to bring fresh insight into how to solve customer problems in decarbonisation, decentralisation, and connectivity. Our goal is to identify opportunities for collaboration as a customer, strategic partner or investor.|
There’s no single way of becoming an Entrepreneur in Residence, with each team member taking a unique path.
‘Growing up on a farm I loved building and making things with my hands, which kicked off a civil engineering degree,’ said Ed Stevens.
‘I worked in construction and then shifted into finance doing fund management. From there I experimented with apps and created a recipe app, and then co-founded a chatbot start-up, which has been used by Dan Murphy’s, David Jones, and the NRL.’
Julia Lu began her career as a concert pianist and teacher.
‘While lecturing at university, I became interested in investments, which led me to pursue – quite unexpectedly - an MBA. I joined the strategy and innovation teams at Energy Australia and then Australia Post before moving to coaching innovation at Telstra as a consultant. I then founded my own company in the events industry three years ago,’ said Julia.
And Jeremy’s journey started in creative marketing agencies.
‘I got addicted to the role that tech was playing,’ he said.
‘This led to innovation roles in the marketing space and then I headed up Digital at Heineken, before moving to Google. I founded a team focusing on innovation with some of Google’s largest customers, and then moved back to Australia.’
Exploration, validation and incubation
When the Future Business team is testing a business idea it moves through three stages.
‘In exploration we’re looking for a customer problem worth solving. We might have an idea for a business based on a new technology or a trend and our mantra is to get out of the building to test our thinking directly with customers, partners and start-ups,’ Julia said.
‘In validation we’re looking for problem-solution fit. We assemble a small cross functional team and run rapid experiments to test the assumptions we have about our business and solution. Our mantra is to put it in customers’ hands so we can get direct feedback as quickly as possible.’
‘The last stage is incubation, where we’re looking for product-market fit. We build a minimum viable product and test and iterate it in the market with early adopters. The goal is to make sure we’ve got the recipe right before we go to scale and bake 10,000 cakes!’
‘At each stage, we’re looking to understand if we should perish, pivot, or pursue the business idea.’
Innovation in the energy industry
‘Innovation is challenging problem-solving. It’s about pushing the boundaries to create something that’s truly novel,’ said Ed.
‘There’s an unfair preconception that innovation means technology. Innovation is the willingness to challenge something and create, so you can have an innovative conversation.
‘The energy industry has such unique challenges so the opportunity and potential for change and impact is really attractive.’
For Jeremy, it’s the business of creating new revenue and business models, through experimentation and creative problem solving.
‘Innovation is easy in newly formed industries and really hard in established businesses. I can’t think of a company with a more established role in energy in Australia than AGL, so if you’re going to prove your innovation muscle, there’s no better place than here,’ he said.
When Julia read the position description for the role, she knew right away that AGL understood innovation.
‘It was clear that thinking outside the box, trying new things, and being open to the possibility of failure were welcome. It was one of the most open-minded position descriptions I’ve read in an innovation area,’ she said.
When asked what future innovations they’re most excited about, here's what our entrepreneurs had to say.
‘Wireless charging,’ said Ed. ‘The idea is a road that’s mapped out with magnets and charges your car as you drive, it already exists and is being developed, but is really cool. I’m also intrigued by the idea of offering electricity free to everyone and what business models could support that.’
‘Teleportation,’ said Julia. ‘I would love to be able to travel from one spot to another without having to physically travel. I did actually see a report that scientists have invented a type of teleportation, but it’s not yet close to what I have in mind.’
‘A really accurate weather app,’ said Jeremy. ‘Have you ever noticed how inaccurate the weather app is? I want information about where I am – not the weather station 3km away. If anyone shares this pain or thinks they can help solve it, please reach out,’ he said.