In March 2021, Opinno received an email, “Can you help us launch this project – we need to set up a company in the UK?” The client on the other end of the communication was HP Inc, ne of the world’s largest tech company; the Founders of Silicon Valley.
HP approached Opinno to launch an innovative new project using the Venture Building approach. What could have taken more than a year to deliver inside HP within the core business yielded visible and successful results from the first month.
Back in 2020, HP identified a potential opportunity to provide cooking content creators a way to monetise their content by selling a custom cookbook promoted right on their own sites. The idea was approved for testing but the teams inside HP were struggling to gain traction to launch a live pilot. They faced many administrative hurdles in getting approval to start the pilot.
So begins a Venture Building success story, an approach to innovation where Opinno supports its customers through the development of new products, prototypes, or even entire commercial businesses.
This approach helps to overcome some of the obstacles of launching a new venture internally (such as corporate ‘antibodies’ and lack of resources to launch innovative business models) and of the buying and not being able to integrate other companies (an effect known as ‘organ rejection’). “Through Venture Building, you get the best of both worlds: you get the knowledge of the insiders who know how internal processes work and entrepreneurs who can build and run a company very quickly and flexibly,” explains Joan Pérez Pericot, VP of Industrial Print Strategy and Sustainability at HP.
In this case, it was about creating the entire back office of an incubation project through the incorporation of CCT (Custom Content Technology) in order to deliver customer service, data platform, supplier management, payments processing, reporting and tax reporting, and payments.
The challenge was not a small one, since in the previous six months had shown little progress. However, what would have taken months or more than a year delivered visible and successful results from the very first month: the first book sold in just 30 days and 500 in just three months, for a total that exceeded 800 customers and 1,600 sales, crossing the Atlantic to the United States… and all this with a small virtual team.
For the project, a diverse team of people both inside and outside of HP were assembled. This combination of intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial talent ensured flexibility while still keeping a foot inside HP, benefiting from the company’s capacity and know-how. “The project functioned as a sandbox”, said Matt Smith, HP project lead, “providing a space to ‘play’ and try new things while keeping the core business protected.” This strategy minimised the friction with HP’s day to day operations, allowing it to co-exist independently.
The keys to success Opinno brought to HP came down to providing greater flexibility and speed – characteristic of a startup – while lowering the risk for the company. “We were able to move very quickly and achieve anything they wanted to do: new regions, new products, new types of customer configurations, new types of contracts…,” notes Nigel Watson, former New Business Incubation Director at HP.
There are also “some great success stories from the creator’s side,” such as that of a U.S. content creator and cook on a naval ship who earned close to $100,000 in commissions last year from sales of her cookbook through HP’s website.
Along the way, challenges such as “knowing when to put more robust tools and processes in place” were overcome, explains Rob Kerner, Managing Director CCT. That is, managing the increasing complexity of the project, maintaining speed and scaling to the next level of demand.
Ultimately, although the results were highly successful, the nature of the project turned out to be incompatible with the huge and complex core business of HP. The final decision meant that CCT would be sold to PPG, a large print service provider in the U.K., who valued the work that had been done. This outcome (the selling of CCT to PPG) was a successful outcome for HP as they are still able to capitalize on their investment through continued higher printing volumes.
After two years of work, what are you most proud of about what the combine team has accomplished? “I think what I’m most proud of is the speed at which we were able to test the idea,” Smith responds. “We were also thinking ahead in the project trying to anticipate the next improvement needed,” he recalls.