The Man Rein­vent­ing Cor­po­rate In­no­va­tion. Meet War­rick Cramer

The man rein­vent­ing cor­po­rate in­no­va­tion

Silicon Luxembourg - - FRONT PAGE -

War­rick Cramer,

CEO of To­mor­row Street

PROGRESS IS A BUMPY ROAD, TAKE TO­MOR­ROW STREET IN­STEAD

Just be­cause a startup is ready to make its en­trance on the in­ter­na­tional stage, does not mean the world pauses to lis­ten. In fact, for grow­ing busi­nesses, the chal­lenge of build­ing an in­ter­na­tional net­work and break­ing into rel­e­vant con­ver­sa­tions can prove fa­tal.

No one knows the tough re­al­i­ties fac­ing these com­pa­nies like War­rick Cramer, se­rial en­tre­pre­neur and CEO of To­mor­row Street, a joint initiative of the Voda­fone Pro­cure­ment Com­pany and the gov­ern­ment of Lux­em­bourg.

Ev­ery­one who has met War­rick knows he is not a com­mon man.

It takes not only am­bi­tion, but also strong de­ter­mi­na­tion, vi­sion and en­tre­pre­neur­ial DNA to launch a project of these di­men­sions within a solid cor­po­rate struc­ture.

Draw­ing on his own ex­pe­ri­ence, War­rick sidestepped pop­u­lar ac­cel­er­a­tor­in­cu­ba­tor mod­els to draft a new blue­print for help­ing star­tups go global – one that lets them ac­cess Voda­fone's im­pres­sive net­work of com­pa­nies, span­ning 70 mar­kets and reach­ing a cus­tomer base of over 500 mil­lion. The To­mor­row Street In­no­va­tion Cen­tre, equipped to host 16 star­tups, not only pro­vides a fast track to ex­po­nen­tial growth but helps par­tic­i­pants op­ti­mize their busi­ness mod­els and prod­ucts.

In Septem­ber 2017, roughly six months af­ter first be­ing an­nounced at the World Mo­bile Con­fer­ence in Barcelona, the Cen­ter will open its doors to in­no­va­tive star­tups hun­gry to meet the world.

Re­cently, Sil­i­con Lux­em­bourg got the chance to meet the vi­sion­ary be­hind this un­con­ven­tional project.

WHERE DID YOUR EN­TRE­PRE­NEUR­IAL JOUR­NEY BE­GIN?

To be hon­est, it wasn't a con­scious de­ci­sion to be­come an en­tre­pre­neur. I think I was just born one. It was in my DNA. I re­mem­ber even as a young child I was al­ways think­ing about how I could build a busi­ness and was swap­ping goods and ser­vices with other kids in my class.

When I turned 15 or 16 I started my first com­pany, buy­ing prod­ucts whole­sale and sell­ing them in Aus­tralia. I think it was built into me from day one, and over the years I've just evolved.

TELL US MORE ABOUT YOUR FIRST COM­PANY.

I started a busi­ness sell­ing mo­bile phone ac­ces­sories. That was in the 90s when mo­biles were just com­ing out and I saw a niche in the mar­ket, so I started im­port­ing prod­ucts from Asia and sell­ing them.

At that point, China and the whole re­gion were just get­ting into man­u­fac­tur­ing so the cost was low and the mar­gins were great.

It evolved and I evolved as well. I'm a strong be­liever that you never stop learn­ing and you never stop de­vel­op­ing. I think an en­tre­pre­neur has to be able to adapt to any en­vi­ron­ment.

Speak­ing of adapt­ing, be­ing an en­tre­pre­neur is ex­tremely dif­fer­ent from be­ing in the cor­po­rate world. What made you join Voda­fone?

I sold my last com­pany about four years ago and re­al­ized that one thing in my life I'd never done was work for some­one and work in a cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment. To be open and hon­est, I didn't know if I would be able to sur­vive.

When you're an en­tre­pre­neur and you own a com­pany, you can make de­ci­sions and choose which­ever path you want to go down. In a cor­po­rate en­vi­ron­ment you don't have that same level of au­ton­omy be­cause you have sev­eral dif­fer­ent lay­ers within the busi­ness.

Com­ing to Voda­fone was a big test for me be­cause I've never worked for any­one, ever, and I have never re­ceived a pay­check.

It was re­ally a per­sonal mis­sion to see if I was flex­i­ble enough to be able to sur­vive in any en­vi­ron­ment and make a dif­fer­ence. I re­ally de­vel­oped as an en­tre­pre­neur.

I'm happy to say that I can look back two years later and think, yes, I can make a dif­fer­ence.

HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH THE TO­MOR­ROW STREET IDEA AND HOW IS IT MAK­ING AN IM­PACT?

Through­out my whole work­ing ca­reer, my vi­sion has al­ways been to make a dif­fer­ence in the world, no mat­ter what

I do. That's what drives me – not money, not fame – to en­rich peo­ple's lives, do some­thing to­tally dif­fer­ent and re­ally make a dif­fer­ence.

When I came to Voda­fone, I looked at this huge ma­chine and thought, wow, how am I go­ing to do this? I took a step back and looked at my own path and what had been miss­ing for me.

The one thing, which is con­sis­tent with all other en­trepreneurs, is that we speak dif­fer­ent lan­guages. We have a cor­po­rate lan­guage and a small startup lan­guage that are very dif­fer­ent. Was there a way we could build some­thing to bridge this gap, and also help these com­pa­nies de­velop their busi­nesses in a great en­vi­ron­ment with the right sup­port?

That's what To­mor­row Street is. It's re­ally about tak­ing these smaller com­pa­nies, bring­ing them into Voda­fone and giv­ing them the right sup­port struc­tures to de­velop and nav­i­gate through the dif­fer­ent stages.

WHAT MAKES THIS MODEL UNIQUE?

Most of the cor­po­rate pro­grams that ex­ist out in the mar­ket are there to sup­port early-stage star­tups through R&d-fo­cused ac­tiv­i­ties. There are tens of thou­sands of ac­cel­er­a­tors and in­cu­ba­tors to choose from in the US and even in Europe.

We thought about what we could we do that's dif­fer­ent and quickly re­al­ized that we are sit­ting in Lux­em­bourg with a fan­tas­tic pro­cure­ment ma­chine. This is a cen­tral hub where sup­pli­ers from all around the world come and in­ter­act with us on a daily ba­sis.

En­trepreneur­ship is all about net­works. Build­ing a net­work is cru­cial. With­out it you just don't sur­vive. We de­cided we could build in­no­va­tion by con­nect­ing the dots and giv­ing com­pa­nies in­tro­duc­tions and up-front ex­po­sure that they nor­mally would not have.

We also wanted to be a niche player and re­ally fo­cus on what we do. Ev­ery­thing I've done has al­ways been about fo­cus. We did not want to repli­cate any­one else.

We carved out a niche in the mar­ket. Af­ter the point when com­pa­nies reach se­ries A fund­ing, there is re­ally no sup­port for them. There are a few con­sult­ing-type pro­grams, but no true sup­port and go-to-mar­ket strat­egy help.

IS THIS A WAY TO PAY IT FOR­WARD?

Yes, it is all about pay­ing it for­ward. I have been very for­tu­nate in my life­time. It hasn't al­ways been easy, but I've been very lucky and this is a way for me to give some­thing back to the com­mu­nity and to other en­trepreneurs who want to make a dif­fer­ence in the world but don't have all of the op­por­tu­ni­ties in front of them.

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