Last night, I moderated the “Fulfilling Entrepreneurial Dreams within Large Companies” event jointly hosted TiE (www.tiesv.org) and UC Berkeley’s Fung Institute. This topic of Intrapreneurship was popularized by a 1985 Newsweek and Time Magazine articles that refered to Steve Job’s view of the Macintosh team as the Intrapreneurs within Apple. Leaders representing todays new initiatives at SAP, Cisco, and Google were Sam Yen, Shailesh Shukla, Buck Gee, and Sameer Samat respectively.
The conversation flow started with examples of building momentum for new initiatives – eg getting out of the building to customers, sometimes in emerging markets as Cisco has done or with internal users that represent customers as Google likes to do with dog-fooding – voiced by Shailesh Shukla and Sameer Samat respectively. Second was to build momentum with other technical staff to build teams and prototypes. Slides just are not enough. And Buck Gee pointed out, that this is all in addition to internal fund raising and aligning with top down executive driven strategies. Sam Yen talked about how SAP preferred a model of 1 level of adjacency in their new venture strategy, ie consumer customers of their mainstream customers.
A second area of conversation was about the challenges which included the “antibodies”, issues of disruption to the organization, picking the right entrepreneurial people, keeping it under the radar in the beginning and yet learning to integrate into the larger organization at the right inflection points. Side comments included that it is not always easy within the larger organization, and compensation is not the only driver, however, intrapreneurs realize that the impact they can have by leveraging the platform of the larger firm often leads to greater impact than they could have as independent entrepreneurs.