3 huge companies you wouldn’t expect to be working like startups

by Andreas Rekdal
January 8, 2016

If you’ve ever owned a car in Chicago, you know your fellow drivers can be pretty inconsiderate when trying to squeeze into the spot right next to yours. Wouldn’t it be nice if your car could notify you by phone when someone bumped into it, so you could head out and get the other driver’s license plate?

This is just one of the many functions unveiled by BMW at the Consumer Electronics Show 2016 in Las Vegas as part of their BMW Connected concept. Other connected features include real-time traffic and weather integrations that let you know when to leave to make it to your next appointment on time, parking availability and charging station information, and a memory for whether you tend to prefer the scenic route home.

BMW’s connected concepts are developed by

, a Chicago-based development company under the BMW Group umbrella. The team (pictured) — which works out of the Boeing Building to translate the digital user experience people have grown accustomed to in their daily lives for cars — in many ways functions like a startup, with small, agile development teams and rapid iterative development processes.

“Daily interim releases allow for near real-time testing to enable rapid feedback and iteration,” said Randy Cavaiani, director of product marketing at BMW Technology.

The new concept has been in testing since August, was showcased this week, and is scheduled for commercial deployment in 2016.

BMW is not the only major corporation with “intrapreneurship” initiatives in Chicago.

With world class museums, shopping, and attractions, it's easy to see why our neck of the woods was the #2 most visited place in the US in 2017.
's newly launched Ascendon service — which powers delivery and monetization of multimedia content for companies like Sony Pictures Home Entertainment and ESPN — started with a couple of people within CSG who had an idea for a completely new product targeted at media and entertainment clients.

“That’s really kind of outside of our company’s core business area, but we thought it was kind of an interesting complement to what CSG does,” said Geoff Preston, vice president of development and operations at CSG. “So we tried to look at what the most effective way to tinker with bringing something new to market would be, and try it in kind of a nimble way.”

A new team (pictured right) was founded as a sort of startup within the company, with only a few initial members, and growing organically as if building a new company from the ground up. The team built their product and brought it to clients, amidst an ongoing conversation at CSG about the extent to which the team should be integrated into the larger company.

CSG decided to let the team keep the autonomy that had brought it success, maintaining a company culture and new policies and procedures that were tailored specifically for the markets they were targeting. Preston believes tighter bonds, fewer handoffs, and greater sense of ownership of the final product to be major advantages of this autonomous structure.

Seeing similar advantages with fostering a startup-like culture, financial services giant Capital One develops many of its consumer-facing digital products at “The Shop” — a startup-inspired open landscape workspace with a 3-D printing lab, a large café and collaboration area, an inside garden, and a soundproof video game room.

“We tend to look at our competitors not as other banks but as technology centered companies competing for talent,” said Ryan Page, digital design director at Capital One.

His multidisciplinary teams focus heavily on starting with specific customer needs and working backwards from there to create products that resonate with them. As needs and priorities shift, so do workspace configurations and team structures.

One of the early products to come out of The Shop was the ability for people to apply for credit card products through their mobile devices — a process that used to be time-consuming and paper-heavy.

Page believes it’s impossible to foster the kind of creativity startups thrive with without a lively and dynamic space.

“It doesn’t work to say ‘Come here and help us change the way people engage with their money. Oh, by the way, here is your cube,’” said Page.

Images via BMW and CSG.

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