At Silicon Valley Innovation Center (SVIC) “success” does not simply equate to selling a client a tour of Silicon Valley. What it actually comes down to is creating a tour which enables them to find solutions to the major challenges they face in their business. Outcomes of that sort come about not as a matter luck but rather as a result of a painstaking investigate process which involves working closely with our clients in order to elicit a clear articulation of the problems they want to solve.
An example of how this works can be seen in the case of International Vitamin Corporation (IVC), which recently toured Silicon Valley with our help.
Prior to the tour, our director of business development and corporate innovation Russel Clímaco-Estardo spent some two and a half months in dialogue with the pill manufacturer’s representatives in both China and the U.S. as he gradually built up an understanding of both what the company hoped to get out of the trip to California and, therefore, which Silicon Valley enterprises he should introduce it to.
“I asked them what the key pain points are of their company,” said Clímaco-Estardo. “My questions revolve around what their issues are. That’s when I integrate new companies and startups. Most of my programs are usually aligned to that.”
Many of Clímaco-Estardo’s clients are in the manufacturing business, just like IVC. According to the consultant, it is an economic sector which is very much open to innovation and disruption.
“There are a lot of issues and a lot of technologies we can integrate,” he said.
In the course of our more than 10 weeks of consultation with IVC we were able to distil the manufacturing company’s long list of interests down to a concise list of priorities, each of which addressed a specific challenge facing its business.
Among the most problematic market developments for IVC is the trend toward precision medicine whereby individuals, thanks to much greater access to their own personal health data, are deciding for themselves which treatments and pills they wish to take.
This is already being seen today in younger generations.
“This is something IVC are worried about,” said Clímaco-Estardo. “In the future, with DNA, people will know what kind of vitamins they need and don’t need. That’s a problem for the company.
“Most young people don’t take vitamins anymore. Mostly older people are taking vitamins. So the mentality has shifted.”
To help IVC address this issue we built a tour which included both introductions to startups operating in the precision health field and meetings at venture capital firms. This gave the vitamin maker an opportunity to explore partnerships and acquisitions which could help it keep up with and, eventually, get ahead of, the changes now taking place in its industry.
“IVC met three precision medicine startups,” said consultant Clímaco-Estardo. “With two of them they actually went on to have serious conversations.”
Aim for the cloud, not the stars
Another major pain point for IVC is in supply chain management. With the company producing millions of pills per hour – making it the world’s biggest vitamin maker – finding efficiencies in manufacturing and logistics is one of its constant preoccupations.
To help in this regard we connected IVC to Jabil, a global leader in electronics manufacturing and a big user of the latest technologies in its workflow.
Although their fields are different, the two companies still found much common ground, with Jabil now looking closely into how it can better use robotics and automation in its factories. IVC had much to learn from this as the challenges it faces are the same, with many of its production facilities still reliant on manual labour and in need of a technological upgrade.
The pill manufacturer was exposed to more potential for supply chain innovation through a meeting with Black Swan Data. It was here that IVC learned about the latest online listening tools which could save it huge sums of money. By using the data science techniques offered by Black Swan, the company would able to better predict where different vitamins would be needed at different times, thus generating the potential for big efficiencies in transport and warehousing.
The next piece of the puzzle when it came to addressing IVC’s pain points was a meeting at Oracle, where we were able to connect the manufacturer with a number of top figures. IVC’s interest here was in the computing giant’s offerings in cloud-based supply chain management software. SVIC consultant Clímaco-Estardo described the Oracle meeting as a “great success”, with IVC likely to expand its use of Oracle’s resource management software in the near future.
Real solutions to real problems
At the end of their three days in Silicon Valley the IVC executives went away with a huge amount of new information. Not only had they seen the very latest technologies in action, they had also seen how those technologies could be applied to take their enterprise forward.
Their tour had taken them to global superstars like Google, Amazon and Oracle but it was sometimes the less well-known market players which proved to have the most to offer.
After all, Silicon Valley is the home of the startup. For IVC, getting a first-hand look at the work being done in fields like precision medicine by newly-minted companies was both a wake-up call and an inspiration. It provided a timely reminder that new competitors are always appearing, but also threw up unexpected avenues for potential mergers and acquisitions which could secure the future market position of the vitamin manufacturer.
Ultimately what an organization is looking for when it turns to SVIC for a tour are answers to the questions being posed by a constantly changing business landscape.
“Our clients want to see some results which they can take back and work with,” said Clímaco-Estardo. “They come here with their problems and we solve them.”