Startups are synonymous with innovation and disruption. They are great accelerators of corporate innovation. They are changing how we live with their ground-breaking, futuristic solutions and significantly impacting the modern world.
In the past, advancements in technology were generally led by big corporations. But with the fourth industrial revolution, smaller, newer market players have come to the fore with a greater focus on innovation. Startups have the advantage of being small and agile, which helps them innovate in unconventional ways and areas where established corporations need help to stay ahead.
Such startups are fostering innovation by creating game-changing technology solutions to address problems up front. For example, fintech startups like Paytm have revolutionised the payments sector by introducing digital wallets and real-time online payments. Telemedicine startup, ReMeDi, has brought remote medical consultations to 2000 rural locations in India. Ola, a ride-hailing startup, has ventured into the electric vehicle (EV) segment despite obvious challenges, while even the biggest automotive players are still shy of exploring the EV turf.
Undoubtedly, startups have been ingenious in exploring technological novelty to create user-centric products and services. Corporations should delve into how startups have achieved this, despite scaling challenges and an unstable market. Some sectors have benefitted more than others from startup-led tech innovations and can offer great corporate insight. Let us explore some of them.
Driving innovation in learning with Edtech
Edtech startups are changing how we learn by helping teachers and students use technology to improve learning outcomes. They’re making it easier for teachers to create engaging content and for schools to go digital. Edtech innovations have proved especially helpful during the pandemic by providing learners worldwide with a digital alternative to traditional classrooms.
Edtech startups are helping spread education through digital content and open online courses. For example, platforms like Coursera, edX, and Udemy offer a wide range of online courses from top universities worldwide. Startups like Byju’s, Vedantu, and White Hat Junior offer parallel learning resources for school-going students and those preparing for competitive exams.
Improving healthcare with Biotech and Medtech
Biotech and medtech startups are driving innovation to advance healthcare and medical technologies. They are helping to develop remote health monitoring systems and online consultation platforms. Biotech startups like eGenesis and Helex are developing new ways to tackle chronic/terminal diseases through gene editing technology like CRISPR, which can modify molecular DNA to repair or replace defective genes. Others, like Biomodex and Osteo3D, are employing 3D printing technology to create anatomical models for surgical simulations and preoperative planning.
Other innovations from startups like Grapheal and Silvertree include wearable sensors that enable remote monitoring of various health metrics. Established biotech/medtech corporations could follow suit and focus more on patient-centric innovations. By collaborating with such startups, they can help solve grassroots-level problems and create solutions to make people’s everyday lives better.
Delivering cross-industry solutions with Drone Technology
Drone technology has been one of the fastest-growing sectors in recent times. Drone startups have been working in areas like remote deliveries, warehouse management, agriculture, firefighting, and even disaster response and rescue operations.
Drone startups like Zipline, Manna Drone Delivery, and Volansi provide aerial deliveries for e-commerce, retail, and medical requirements like vaccines. Some startups like Ware are combining drone technology with AI to develop solutions to streamline warehouse management by automating inventory tracking through self-flying scanning drones. Other drone startups like AUS (Aarav Unmanned Systems) offer quad-rotor drone systems for irrigation, agriculture, mining, geographical mapping, urban planning, and more.
Drones are revolutionising delivery systems and enhancing the operational efficiency of several other industries. Tech corporations can participate in the revolution by collaborating with these startups and helping them expand their industry-wide use cases.
Taking finance into the new age with Blockchain technology
Blockchain is a distributed ledger technology (DLT) that allows for creation of digital currencies, smart contracts, and decentralised finance (DeFi). It’s often seen as the major disruptive force in today’s financial world because it offers faster processing speeds and greater data security while lowering costs.
Most of the innovation in Blockchain technology is driven by startups. From creating blockchain solutions like smart contracts to driving alternative finance with cryptocurrency exchanges and DeFi platforms, blockchain startups like Index Cooperative are helping this industry to grow. They are developing blockchain-powered financial solutions to enhance data security, speed up transactions, eliminate fraud and reduce costs. Blockchain startups like Fireblocks are already offering blockchain security solutions for cryptocurrencies, treasury operations, decentralized finance, and digital asset operations.
Startups in the blockchain domain are known for their risk appetite, given that the industry is relatively new and volatile. Corporations could take a leaf from their book, amp up their risk-taking game, and drive innovation in decentralised technologies.
Fighting Climate Change with Green Technologies
Green technologies aren’t just limited to electric vehicles (EVs). They also include low-carbon energy generation, including renewable sources like solar, wind, and hydroelectric power. Startups are playing a critical role in the transition to a greener, more sustainable future by providing greener alternatives to traditional technologies that have a bigger carbon footprint. Sectors like transport, aviation, energy generation, food production, and even farming are seeing ground-breaking innovation.
Startups like ZeroAvia are helping aviation become sustainable by developing hydrogen-electric powertrains (zero emissions, long-range, lower fuel and maintenance costs) as an alternative to conventional engines. Food technology startups like Mirai Foods are helping to develop a cruelty-free and more sustainable alternative to traditional meat by cultivating meat from animal cells by extracting stem cells. Startups like Nikola Motors are transforming the EV industry with recyclable EV cell technology and a cutting-edge charging ecosystem, including smart charging software and fixed DC fast-charging infrastructure.
Corporations in the automotive, aviation, and other sectors can prioritise sustainability in their product development. Greentech startups don’t shy away from looking to unconventional sources and methods, which is why they have been faster and better at developing green alternatives to traditional technologies.
Taking inspiration from the new
The technology sector is brimming with startup innovations, and many of these innovations are starting to influence how corporations operate. With their problem-focused approach, startups are able to assimilate new technologies and bring about radical changes quickly. Established companies facing innovation roadblocks must take inspiration from startups and how they bring unique perspectives to tackling innovation challenges while leveraging technology advancements in different fields.
Corporations must look out for tech startups entering their markets, and instead of bluntly competing with them, they must look for collaborations. While sectors like education and healthcare have already experienced a boost from startup-led innovations, many more sectors could benefit from such disruption. Corporations can help achieve that by becoming an active component of the startup ecosystem and providing infrastructure, data, funding and mentorship.