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How to get started with corporate entrepreneurship? This is how we did it in NNIT

Corporate entrepreneurship is a mindset, a process and a framework for large companies to launch and manage new ventures internally. A lot of companies are investigating in this concept to increase profit, experiment with radical ideas, stay competitive and to retain talented staff that otherwise may be inclined to leave and creating their own startup.

There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to corporate entrepreneurship and each company has to find their own way of creating a space for entrepreneurial thinking within the organization. But for your inspiration I would like to share some of the learnings we have had in NNIT while launching our newest internal startup initiative: Business Innovation Growth (BIG).

Execution beats planning – continuous learning
You need to have your ducks in a row when building an internal innovation setup but don’t be afraid to execute your ideas even when you don’t know where you will end. While defining and setting up BIG we didn’t know exactly where we would end (and we still don’t), but we learn from every step we take. We want the initiative to be absorbed into the existing NNIT culture and therefore we could not just copy successful cases from other organizations. Instead we have started in a small scale, initiating two internal startups in 2018 and based on the continuous learnings from these, we will evaluate if the setup matches the innovation culture of NNIT. My advice is therefore to start corporate entrepreneurial initiatives in a small scale because it gives you the ability to execute faster and gives you unique learning points that will benefit the long-term planning. 


Be patient

Building an internal startup within a big corporation is not something that you just do in a couple of weeks. You need to establish an entrepreneurial culture to match the concept and framework you wish to build – otherwise you do not have any employees to engage and interact with the innovation environment. Do not assume that everyone talks the language of corporate entrepreneurship (MVP, Innovation Accounting, taking higher risks, failing fast, Growth Boards, learnings as a target etc.) from day one. Be patient and communicate across the organization about the new setup whenever you get a chance.

Align expectations

From an organizational point of view it takes courage to build an internal startup environment and it is a step out of the comfort zone for the organization. The key to successfully lead this process is to continuously align expectations with key stakeholders in your organization. The expectations to the initiative might change over time, so make sure to communicate this and be very clear on your milestones and targets. Be careful to define success criteria too early in the process and only stick to them. Instead, I recommend you to have an open and honest dialogue with internal stakeholders, so nobody gets unexpected surprises. As an example we communicate bi-weekly with key stakeholders to inform them about the development of the initiative but also highlighting potential risks.  

Have an investor’s mindset

How would you like a startup to report to you if you invested in them? I am sure you would not just focus on all the great ideas that they would pitch for you. You would rather focus on what kind of problem they solve for your customers and even more important: what kind of team you have to solve this problem. That is why we have established a Growth Board in NNIT. A Growth Board is an internal version of investors and the purpose is to create a single point of accountability for the team and to give them strategic guidance during their startup-journey. In our setup the team meets with the Growth Board every three weeks to guide them and to have an open and honest dialogue about progress and challenges that the team might have – just like you would do if you were an investor. 

Combine your practical experience with theory

The best way to learn is by experimenting – which we have done quite a lot establishing BIG. But we have also spent quite some time reading about entrepreneurship to get inspiration to our own setup. If you would like to get some of the same books on your bookshelf, I recommend you read:

  • “The Startup Way” by Eric Ries. By reading this book you will be familiar with Lean Startup, MVPs, Growth Boards and Innovation Accounting. 

  •  “Iværksætter” by Mads Faurholt and Lars Tvede. The book is written in Danish, but it shares good insight from the writers’ own experiences on how to form culture, team, pitching ideas as a startup, funding a startup, etc.but it is a great book to get a better understanding of behavioral design and how to create a culture of innovation.

  • ”Jytte fra Marketing er desværre gået for i dag" by Morten Münster. The book is not about entrepreneurship, but it is a great book to get a better understanding of behavioral design and how to create a culture of innovation.

  • If you don’t want to read books, but just want to get quick inspiration online, then I recommend “Corporate Innovation – How To Overcome Unique Challenges” and “To Innovate Like a Startup, Make Decisions Like VCs Do”. Or you can just browse through “73 Corporate Innovation Labs” summarizing similar initiative to get inspiration from other organization.

I hope I have inspired you to get started with corporate entrepreneurship or you may have familiarized yourself with similar learnings. Or maybe you have additional advices/experiences to share? Feel free to comment below. I would love to discuss corporate entrepreneurship with others who have the same passion.



Camilla Krabbe Kongsted Christensen+45 30778402CQKO@nnit.comBusiness Development Consultant Krabbe Kongsted Christensen



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