How to create a fair pitching process for intrapreneurs
Post by: Daniel Alexus
Last week we hosted Ericsson ONE’s first major pitch event for 2020: Dragon’s Den. Throughout the day, Ericsson intrapreneurs pitched for investment to move their innovation projects forward from the ideation phase and begin building minimum viable products.
In the wake of the COVID-19 outbreak this event was held virtually for the first time. For our intrapreneurs standing in front of a live camera to pitch remotely was a new experience, and it definitely heightened some nerves. This made me think – how can we ensure projects are always judged fairly, even when investment decisions are made based on virtual pitches from intrapreneurs with diverse backgrounds and different skillsets? How can we ensure time differences, internet connectivity or even simple things like screen size don’t subconsciously impact the way we judge projects?
At Ericsson ONE, we have a responsibility towards our intrapreneurs to ensure all projects have the same chance to be successful – so it’s vital that we make fair, impartial and well-grounded decisions. When deciding whether or not to invest in a new venture, the basis for that decision should lie in project’s potential future success, and nothing else.
So, how do we ensure intrapreneurs and innovators are assessed fairly during the pitching process, and that they have an equal chance of securing investment?
In the lead up to Dragon’s Den all of our intrapreneurs have sessions with experienced business coaches to help them develop their pitches. In these sessions, intrapreneurs are given the same tools and support, and the same information about the criteria upon which their projects will be judged. They’re all also given the opportunity to do dry runs of their pitches, allowing them to make sure they’ve included all of the relevant information and details needed for us to truly understand the project’s potential.
At Ericsson ONE, we’ve developed a clear set of criteria which all projects are evaluated and judged against throughout the entire innovation process. This helps idea owners understand how we make decisions on whether or not to invest in their venture, what key things need to be considered in order to make a project successful, and where to focus their efforts.
Throughout our innovation process the ideas move from conceptual sketches to scalable businesses and we’re making investments along the way to enable this development. Each stage in this process has a new set of criteria to allow the projects to pass each investment milestone. For example, we look at desirability to evaluate if the project fulfills the needs and objectives of potential end customers, and feasibility to understand if we have the skills, capabilities and scope to develop the idea. We also assess how viable the idea is to understand the commercial potential of the project and how sustainable the business will be over time. Thanks to this strict set of criteria we can ensure all of the judges are making their investment decisions based on the same framework and perspectives.
At Ericsson ONE, we work hard to ensure our intrapreneurs’ projects are successful throughout the entire innovation process, and ideas will not be pitching until our business coaches are confident they are ready. By doing this, we give projects the best chance of passing Dragon’s Den and receiving investment the first time round – and increase the likelihood that they’ll evolve into successful new ventures.
Unlike entrepreneurs, most intrapreneurs only pitch to one potential investor – their employer. This might feel like a disadvantage, as essentially, they only have one shot.
However, the projects will be assessed by panel of experts from various parts of the organization. The divers background and areas of expertise together with the set assessment criteria will ensure that multiple perspectives are taken into consideration. At Ericsson ONE the intrapreneurs will also have the opportunity to pitch their idea again if we believe that information is missing to take a fair decision. We give people time to iron out any questions before returning to Dragon’s Den again and in the cases where projects don’t get investment we will ensure to capture the learnings but not let a negative decision linger longer than necessary.
As with all investment decision the final results are not an exact science and sometime we won’t be taking the right decisions. By sticking to a strict set of criteria and providing consistent communication and support, our intrapreneurs have the security of knowing that their projects will receive fair and impartial assessments.