DFW Corporations Outline Innovation Needs

AT&T, Texas Instruments, Samsung and others explained what they're looking for at Tech Titans Reverse Pitch Day.

Ten corporations in Dallas gave DFW startups the essential keys to working with them. They mapped out the areas in which they need startup innovation.

Representatives from Ericsson, AT&T, Nokia, Verizon, Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas, Capital One, State Farm Insurance, Texas Instruments, Mitel, and Samsung convened at Tech Titans recent Reverse Pitch Day. The concept is similar to its TechQuest program, which started in 2008. At TechQuest events, Tech Titans, which was then known as the Metroplex Technology Business Council, invited one large corporation at a time to pitch to a group of innovators. Reverse Pitch Day is the opportunity to scale that model.

“Instead of making this a one-to-many process, we’ll make this a many-to-many process,” said Bill Sproull, Tech Titans CEO, about the genesis of the program.

The Reverse Pitch Day focused on three topics: internet of Things, machine-to-machine opportunities, and big data.

Here’s a look at what each company seeks.

  • Ericsson: Along with working with major telecommunication networks, the company also has spent much time and investment within the TV media space, focused on streaming TV. The company is responsible for a lot of media tech that’s under the hood. So it’s looking for new ways to purpose media assets and apply them to IoT. It is also outlined three other targets: energy/utilities (for things like smart grid tech, preparing for micro grid generation); transportation (connected car, intelligent transportation systems in smart cities), and public safety. The company also has been knee deep in 5G technology and is always looking for ways to partner with companies who can demonstrate its capabilities. Ericsson makes minority investments in startups.
  • Verizon Enterprise Solutions: The company is looking for key components that help build a complete M2M solution, not just the solution itself. So it’s looking for innovative components within the energy space, such as advanced metering infrastructure for smaller utilities; security, as its one of the biggest inhibitors of IoT; and platforms that can help the company integrate new developments across many systems. Verizon also has its venture capital arm, Verizon Ventures, which invests in emerging companies across industries.
  • AT&T: AT&T is a bit broader with its ask, as it has the Foundry, its incubator that focuses on IoT startups and innovations in Plano. The Foundry asks innovators to ask themselves, “What are the problems people haven’t been able to solve yet?” and develop a solution from there. But the Foundry can help those who have a great product or just a great idea. Solutions that incubate in the Foundry also could receive funding or integration into AT&T.
  • Nokia: The company is seeking innovation that could aid with smart cities, smart cars, and smart health. Since acquiring Alcatel-Lucent earlier this year, the company also gained the ng Connect program, which aims to bring together companies to collaborate on innovative solutions and business models. Ng Connect focuses on IoT at its location in Plano. Nokia Growth Partners, the company’s VC arm, recently announced a $350 million fund focused on IoT. It typically funds companies with market traction, raising a Series B round of funding. Nokia’s Robert Regan, vice president of mergers and acquisitions, says regardless of how you connect to Nokia, “Have patience. We’re vetting a lot of customers.”
  • State Farm: The insurance company seeks innovative ways to decrease accident risk in real time. It commonly runs across new innovations that all work on separate devices and platforms. It seeks innovations that can help create a standardization process so that the company can continue to focus on new developments. It also seeks ways in which it can verify data it receives to ensure that nothing has been tampered with.
  • Capital One: The company is focused on omnichannel or the ability to market products across mediums. It’s recently done work to allow customers to bank on the Amazon Echo. It’s also looking at innovative ways it can determine the right credit risk with the development of connected cars, which could potentially send the company the health of the car, information on the user and feed it to a model for evaluation. The company has a venture capital arm, Capital One Growth Ventures, as well as an innovation center in Plano called The Garage.
  • Blue Cross Blue Shield of Texas: The health insurance company collects tons of data and is looking for innovative ways to repurpose that data for its customers, especially as more employers aim to lower their healthcare costs. As wearables become more common, the company aims to leverage available health data to help customers make smarter decisions. The company also seeks innovations that would help insurance companies talk to each other, so that customer data can transfer from company to company as they switch providers. Better data equals better outcomes.
  • Samsung: Since acquiring California-based SmartThings, the company has been interested in the smart home. It seeks innovations that can connect to its platform, helping consumers automate their homes. SmartThings already enables automation of 250 things, and that number is just expected to grow. The company is also looking for ways to make smart home developments easier. Nick DiCarlo, vice president of immersive products, advises developers to go out, buy some of the smart home products, try installing them, then make that easier. Solutions that can drive multiple implementations will be key in the future.
  • Texas Instruments: The semiconductor company helps enable people to connect to things via their chips. The company sees a big opportunity for sensor software within the current “industrial revolution.” TI needs help it easy to connect things to the cloud, via sensors, within 3 minutes. Ease of use is important. It also seeks innovations in making data meaningful and secure. “We don’t know what we don’t know,” said Olivier Monnier, TI director of marketing.
  • Mitel: Mitel is focused on the problems that exist in the business sector. The communications company says innovation could come in the form of improved battery technology, hyperscale problems that could be associated with cloud transactions, and security. But there are probably many more areas could use innovation. The company, which acquired Richardson-based Mavenir last year, is always looking for new solutions.

George Brody, retired CEO of GlobeRanger, which was acquired by Fujitsu, also attended the pitch. He had the following advice for startups and innovators: “Industry IoT is what’s going to change the face of technology. Our [region’s] strength [comes] from manufacturing. This is where the hotbed for those things are. I would focus here.”

Pioneer Natural Resources also attended the event.

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