In 2006 we searched outside of Qualcomm for other similar entrepreneurship programs where participants also had to balance other obligations. We realized this mechanism had been occurring for years at University’s startup competitions, such as the MIT 100K Accelerate Contest. In these competitions, multidisciplinary self-forming teams of students work part time to pitch new companies. The program we implemented inside of Qualcomm ended up being very similar. We dubbed the program Qualcomm’s Venture Fest and the process, “Collective Entrepreneurship”, a three-phase program combining crowdsourcing with entrepreneurial techniques for startup creation.
The first phase of the program leveraged the idea management system to collect a large number of competing entries then ultimately down-selected to the top 10-20 concepts with the most breakthrough potential, according to peer and expert reviews.
The second phase, and heart of the program, was a three-month, part time bootcamp that would prepare idea champions for the internal funding battle that followed. The bootcamp requested that participants do what entrepreneurs do before requesting seed funding – Discover, Network and Accelerate. (In hindsight we were having our employees get out of the building to talk to customers, build prototypes and generate partner interest – essentially doing Customer Discovery years before Steve Blank taught his Lean LaunchPad class at Stanford and the National Science Foundation!). Our employees faced the typical impediments to corporate entrepreneurship – lack of employee time, skills, connections, pre-seed money, and official sources to discuss and manage the risk/rewards tradeoffs of sticking your neck-out. So our program staff built a support system of contextual education, mentorship, micro-funding, and hands-on coaching.
Finally, the third phase of the program, implementation, began with the top team’s pitches to the C-level executive team, which determined the competition winners, prize money and directed other promising teams to target business unit sponsors. Our program staff facilitated the handoff and disseminated the value extracted from any funded experiments, including future option, strategic and exit value.