17 October 2013

Business start-ups: Why small sometimes trumps big

Being a member of the Sydney University Business School team that won last semester’s Deloitte Fastrack Innovation Challenge was an invaluable experience for a number of reasons.

Apart from the chance to develop a business idea with solid market potential, my involvement also offered a new perspective on two different business approaches - entrepreneurship and intrapreneurship. While the former refers to building a business external to other companies, the latter involves building something within the constraints of a pre-existing company structure. (For the record, we approached our task more from the entrepreneurial side, essentially creating a start-up relevant to Deloitte.)

It all got me thinking about the idea of small companies versus large, and the way that large organisations can try to compete with smaller entities. This can be harder than it sounds. True, small companies don’t have many resources, many people, much money, or even any connections. But if they have a great team, a great idea and have identified a market opportunity, they can make decisions quickly, expand rapidly and fill that gap potentially faster than a large organisation. Having some large organisation experience, I know that many can’t move as fast. For example, one business I worked for took six weeks to approve an update to one paragraph on the company website.

Interestingly, some larger companies are trying to overcome their inherent limitations in order to remain ahead of the curve. Deloitte themselves are a classic example, promoting a culture of innovation and trying to remain flexible and mobile. The fact that after we won the innovation challenge they entered into negotiations with us around incorporating our business idea into their existing framework, is highly indicative of this strategy.

We've now decided to take our idea to market for real. This is a hugely exciting opportunity as we’ll potentially be competing with other larger organisations that perhaps aren’t as flexible. But regardless of what happens from here, the experience of competing in the innovation challenge has been fantastic. Being involved in every facet of building a business - from finance to marketing and strategy - was a really steep learning curve. Nonetheless, it was an incredible experience that complemented my degree perfectly.

Author: Rory Aston James – Master of Management student

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