Today, I’m launching a new company: Highline BETA. I’m co-founding Highline BETA with Marcus Daniels. I’ve known Marcus a long time and we’ve stayed in touch throughout the years. We’ve now found the right time and opportunity to work together.
Highline BETA is something different. We’re a startup co-creation company.
What does that mean?
It means we take the best of multiple worlds, put it all together, and help launch new, venture-profile startups. Without going into exhaustive detail, the idea is this: We work with large, corporate customers to identify and validate problem areas/opportunities of interest. We bring in top-tier founders to start companies in those areas of interest. And we provide the first funding into the startups as well.
Corporate partners + top-tier founders + early funding = better startups
The Challenges of Corporate Innovation
“Corporate innovation” is an overused buzzword. But we all know the situation: large companies are getting beaten by upstarts faster than ever before. They try a variety of “corporate innovation” efforts, but struggle to drive meaningful results. It’s not easy to innovate from within. We believe large companies can innovate, but they should do it from the outside, leveraging the vast assets they have (let’s not forget: they got big for a reason, they won somewhere!) to empower external, co-created startups to drive the meaningful disruption so desperately needed. This is not to say that companies shouldn’t also innovate from within, but they can’t rely exclusively on their own abilities to disrupt themselves.
If you’re relying on innovation solely from within your company, you’re dead.” — Peter Diamandis, Founder X Prize Foundation & Co-Founder / Executive Chairman Singularity University
On the startup side, we know that 9 out of 10 startups fail. So how can we change the equation? We believe we can improve the ratio by having great founders focus on solving meaningful corporate problems. These could be internal challenges as well as consumer challenges (i.e. B2B, B2C, B2B2C.) Through our corporate partners we can give startups access to resources they rarely get early in the game. We can’t guarantee success, far from it, but at the end of the day we believe that better startups, with a higher likelihood of success, will emerge out of this process.
Pre-Seed Funding at the Right Time
Finally, we come to funding. HIGHLINE.vc, which recently completed two years of investing (you can learn more about their fund performance to-date through this infographic), excelled at the pre-seed stage in Canada. Early funding is a critical component of getting startups setup for success. I’ve seen it myself with 15+ angel investments, and Marcus (who ran HIGHLINE.vc) understands this very well too. So part of Highline BETA’s mission is to provide pre-seed/seed stage funding to startups. We’ll be investing in startups we co-create and others as well.
Startup Co-Creation FTW
We’re not the first to come up with the idea of startup co-creation, but it’s still very new, and there are many ways of going about it. For example, check out this Financial Post article about co-creation. We’re not a lab, accelerator or a foundry, but we’re taking experiences and ideas from all of them. We’re also not an agency or service company. Highline BETA is brand new, but we think we have the right people, partners and methodology to make this work. And although I can’t disclose a lot of information today, we’re already working with a few incredible companies to move them along the path of startup co-creation.
Startup co-creation = corporate partner + founders + funding + us
Marcus and I have been working with startups for almost 20 years. We’ve both run accelerator programs. We’ve invested. We’ve started companies and held various roles inside early stage startups. We think we can bring large companies and founders together in a way that hasn’t been done before, and provide the right mentorship, programming and guidance to drive startup success. And we won’t be doing it alone. We’ll be building a team of people that share our vision and approach.
Highline BETA is the culmination of many years of learning across various disciplines, which is part of why I’m so excited about it. I love the idea of working with tons of great people (executives, intrapreneurs and founders), solving huge problems, investing, leveraging my product management and startup accelerator experience, and more. Success for Highline BETA is about creating great new startups that were sparked through relationships with large, corporate partners, marrying two worlds that need to find a better way of working together.