Nokia – A Market Leader’s Fall from Grace:
In the ever-evolving landscape of today’s business world, even the most prominent market leaders can’t take their positions for granted. “Business as usual” is no longer a valid long-term option, and every company will face disruption from new technology and competition. Nokia serves as a striking example of a disrupted market leader. Once a dominant force in the mobile phone industry, with a peak valuation of $250 billion and a staggering 40% market share around 2007, the company experienced a dramatic fall from grace, culminating in its $7 billion purchase by Microsoft in 2014. This decline underscores the crucial need for corporations to embrace a new approach: open innovation. Surprisingly, it wasn’t competitors like Motorola, Samsung, or Apple that brought the “king of hardware” to its knees, but the App Store, Android, and thousands of third-party app developers that transformed how consumers used their mobile phones overnight.
In 2011, after 12 years at Nokia, Lars Buch found himself leading Nokia Smartphones R&D in Denmark. He had to make a rapid shift from creating cutting-edge technology and phone products to overseeing massive layoffs, adapting to a new reality where Nokia was no more.
Looking back, one of the most remarkable aspects of this story is Lars’s involvement in a Nokia team that facilitated manufacturing expansion and technology transfer to Asian suppliers throughout the 2000s. Some of the well-known brands today, such as Foxconn, BYD, and Huawei, started producing iPhones and their own brands after learning from Nokia and became new dominant players in the market.
From Corporate Executive to Investor to Venture Builder:
During the downsizing period, Nokia remained committed to securing a bright future for its ex-employees. Among its initiatives was the Bridge Incubator, which offered departing colleagues access to Nokia patents, initial startup capital, and business coaching. Lars Buch headed the incubator for two years, supporting the birth of dozens of startups locally and hundreds globally. This experience served as the inspiration for his subsequent decade-long journey, working at the intersection of corporations, venture capital, and startups.
Lars joined one of the earliest Venture Builders, a company with over 200 employees and offices worldwide, which also owned the startup accelerator Startupbootcamp. Over a decade, they invested in more than 1,000 startups. After spending a few years building startups and ecosystems in Berlin and Moscow, Lars Buch moved to Dubai in 2019. There, he took charge of the Startupbootcamp accelerators in DIFC and Silicon Oasis in Dubai, as well as the Qatar Sports Accelerator and Cairo Fintech. His focus shifted from accelerators to Corporate Venture Building as a more effective way to build portfolios of new companies, outperforming traditional venture capital. In early 2021, Lars Buch joined Injazat, a G42 company based in Abu Dhabi, as Executive Vice President, leading the Venture Builder with a focus on creating new companies and supporting the explosive growth of G42.
Leveraging Open Innovation for Radical Corporate Growth:
By the end of 2022, a group of individuals left the organization to establish a unique innovation and venture consultancy in Dubai. They offered corporate partners and family offices across the GCC “Open Innovation as a Service”.
“Open Innovation” is a collaborative approach to problem-solving and innovation. It actively seeks and incorporates external ideas, technologies, and expertise into an organization’s innovation processes. It encourages partnerships, knowledge-sharing, and the integration of external resources to drive creativity and accelerate the development of new products, services, and solutions.
In the world of investment, both family offices and corporations with specific investment mandates face numerous challenges. Existing standalone models have inherent flaws and limitations. These challenges include the inability to achieve radical innovation with existing resources, high costs, sluggish scalability, rigid deliveries, and difficulty fostering an entrepreneurial mindset among employed founders. This often leads to misalignment of interests between corporate entities, consultancy companies, innovation studios, and venture founders.
Another common issue is relying on a single “venture partner” instead of creating a diversified portfolio. This can limit costs and incentives, extending the time to achieve a return on investment, especially when starting from scratch. Additionally, accessing promising early-stage startups can be challenging, as many have already garnered high valuations from venture capitalists, and a significant number of startups fail to deliver strategic benefits.
The solution to these multifaceted challenges lies in adopting a client-customized mixed portfolio approach. This strategy involves managing investments through a dedicated partner with aligned incentives and engaging a carefully selected portfolio of partners, each tailored to address specific investment initiatives. This approach not only addresses current limitations but also offers the flexibility to achieve radical innovation, pivot effectively, and incentivize partners to provide optimal solutions. It also enables a diversified investment strategy that mitigates risks and accelerates returns.
The small team consists of experts in their respective fields, offering a comprehensive range of services:
- Venture Building: Partnering to identify market gaps, incubate, launch, and scale new ventures by leveraging external talent.
- Investment Target Identification: Pinpointing high-potential investment opportunities through rigorous analysis and market insights aligned with your strategic vision.
- Due Diligence and Acquisition: Conducting thorough due diligence to ensure investment decisions are data-driven and industry-informed.
- Internal and External Radical Innovation Consulting: Driving transformative change within your organization by fostering a culture of continuous improvement and exploring external partnerships to fuel innovation.ng to identify market gaps, incubate, launch, and scale new ventures by leveraging external talent.
A Glimpse of 2023 Ventures Under Construction:
Glassify.app: A platform solution for transparent, fractional investment in premier real estate. It unites stakeholders, removes barriers, and ensures safety for one billion micro-investors globally.
Konnect3d: A spinoff from a UAE-based software development company, Konnect3d offers the ultimate Engineering, Procurement, Construction (EPC) Digital Twin 4.0 Platform. It targets the energy and construction sectors with deep tech and AI, simplifying complex processes through a user-friendly experience.
Nuvation UAE: In partnership with Australia-based Anchor Ventures Holding, this initiative is launching an end-to-end virtual matchmaking and investment platform. There’s a plan to establish a physical hub in Abu Dhabi by 2025 to support sustainable technology initiatives and startups. The goal is to reimagine sustainable living through cutting-edge technology, bringing together academia, corporates, and the startup ecosystem in a collaborative effort.
Welcoming more Scaleups to MENA:
For pre-revenue startups, UAE may not be the ideal starting point due to the cost of living and the need to find product-market fit. However, for scaleups with traction, solving real problems in an innovative way, there are private and government customers, access to growth capital, and a strategic location for expansion toward both the East and West, as well as Africa. Having engaged with thousands of startups worldwide, and invested in 100s over the past decade, especially in digital health and sustainable technologies, Lars Buch and his partners are well-positioned to advise startups on how to establish themselves in the region. Welcome to connect and meet at Expand North Star, Gitex this week in Dubai.
If you as a corporation are looking to avoid surprising disruption and inspired to explore how Lars Buch can help your company engage effectively with the startup ecosystem and build a portfolio of open innovation initiatives, you can contact Lars Buch at +971524170306 via WhatsApp or Telegram.
Connect with Lars Buch on LinkedIn: