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The Simulated Startup: Meet the Innovative Startups Inside Mammoth Companies


MasterCard Employee

MasterCard employee demonstrates ShopThis! with MasterPass which will allow consumers to buy products directly from Intel’s Virtual Shopping Experience – a fully interactive 3-D virtual fitting room app at MasterCard’s Innovation Showcase event.

“Agile methodology,” “failing fast,” “pivoting”—all concepts commonly used in startups—are increasingly being put to work inside the walls of large, well-established companies. This is because executives at Fortune 500 companies have realized that the natural limitations that face startups—limitations on time and financial resources—can actually be boons, resulting in fresh ideas and fast execution.

So a handful of large public companies, including General Electric (GE) and MasterCard, have created startups within their own mammoth companies. In 2013, GE created FastWorks, an internal startup entity. Its mission was to develop products using the “lean startup” approach, codified by Eric Ries in his book, The Lean Startup. (This means constantly experimenting and regularly getting feedback from customers to avoid building products that customers don’t want.)

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Why Some of the Biggest, Most Successful Companies Come to GA to Learn


We’ve had a great relationship with The Wall Street Journal over the past three years. However, in a recent story that took a look at a number of executive training programs, including GA’s Enterprise offering, we feel like the Journal missed their mark.

In the story, clients investing in digital training were characterized as organizations led by clueless individuals who need to learn how to tweet. That’s not true, at least for the clients we’ve seen at GA.

Companies investing in digital training aren’t clueless, in fact they’re the

  • Our clients are forward thinking organizations which have recognized  that we’ve entered a digital era and that they can’t continue business as usual, and are investing in their employees as a result. You’ll notice that the companies highlighted in the article (American Express, NYSE Euronext, DraftFCB) are all leaders in their industries. And that’s because they know how important it is to invest in their workforces to remain market leaders, and to continue to deliver exceptional products/services to their customers.
  • Participants coming through our programs are far from clueless. It is 2013, so there are few, if any, executives who haven’t led, or played a major role in a successful digital initiative. None of our participants say “interwebs” (without an ironic smirk), and they all know what Facebook is, and what it looks like. By recognizing that there is always more to learn, they’re actually ahead of their competitors.

Learning how to tweet isn’t a good investment of time for groups of senior executives, and it’s not what we teach.

  • We focus our training on building a common understanding and language around the impact digital forces are having on a specific company;
  • Understanding how these forces and digital tools should change the way they build products, communicate with their customers, and manage/structure their teams; and
  • Developing a set of tactical actions that can be applied to real business problems and drive change after the program.

Enterprise was born out of the recognition of one of the country’s top CMOs that her organization needed to learn the most recent digital trends, and also have the structure, and space to reflect on the implications for her organization.

We have worked with more than 20 consumer-facing Fortune 500 companies, in the past year and a half, none of which are clueless.

Michael Robson is General Manager, Enterprise at General Assembly.