Communitech's lean startup culture teaches large corporations how to innovate by thinking through ideas quickly

When you think of Communitech, or the Waterloo Region for that matter, you probably think fast-growing technology startups. After all, the region is the birthplace of Desire2Learn, OpenText, BlackBerry, Kik, and a breeding ground for up-and-coming companies like Vidyard, which has recently reached the elusive unicorn status. According to Compass, the 1,100 startups within a population of about half a million give the Waterloo Region the second highest number of startups per capita in the world, trailing only Silicon Valley.

Down the hall from the University of Waterloo's renowned Velocity Garage, in a wide-open space decorated with soft seating and illuminated by expansive windows, is an area occupied by large corporations such as Deloitte, Toronto Dominion (TD) Bank, Microsoft and Thomson Reuters. They've come to learn how to think and act more like lean start-ups and ultimately, to get comfortable with failing.

TD Bank achieves newfound success, through 90% failure rate

TD Bank has boasted that its work within the friendly walls of Communitech has yielded a failure rate of 90%. Of course, they are not seeking to achieve epic failure, or to take something they do well and make it unsuccessful. Rather, it is about creating a space where people are comfortable testing and subsequently adjusting or throwing out ideas before they have become products. In other words, as Seth Godin puts it: "it's the type of failing that doesn't kill you."

Two of Communitech's long-standing corporate innovation partners find success

TD Bank and Canadian Tire are just two examples of large corporations that have benefited from immersing their talent in a lean start-up culture. Their success in adopting agile ideation and design capabilities characteristic of tech start-ups has produced opportunities that warrant the opening of two new product development labs, where they each plan to take their innovative ideas to the next level. Canadian Tire has just opened a product development lab in Northern Waterloo, which will employ more than 300 people, while TD Bank is opening up a similar space that will employ 120, in addition to their fintech innovation lab within Toronto's MaRS Discovery District.

In addition to mentoring and corporate services like application design, Communitech offers its corporate innovation partners opportunities to mingle with the start-up crowd, including monthly social events. In fact, Communitech's Community Relations Manager, Kayleigh Platz, tells us that during one such affair, a promising start-up called MappedIn and Canadian Tire began a relationship that promises to revolutionize the retailer's shopping experience.


January 27, 2016

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