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Unilever calls on global digital start-up community to help it scale Internet of Things ambitions


By Jessica Davies, News Editor

May 22, 2014 | 3 min read

Unilever has launched global start-up initiative The Foundry as it looks for partners that can help drive its Internet of Things ambitions and co-create products for future ‘smart kitchens'.

The FMCG giant, which unveiled the launch today in a press briefing, is looking to partner with start-ups that have established technology that it can scale, rather than those at incubator stage.

It is looking particularly for start-ups with technologies that can help it address its goals of developing ‘smart kitchens’ along with new ways to help its customers live more sustainability.

Those that are successful at pitching will be given $50,000 to fund a pilot of their technology for Unilever and will be given access to Unilever mentors over a three-month period – with 80 marketers having already signed up globally to become mentors to the start-ups in the scheme.

Unilever’s senior VP of marketing Marc Mathieu said the move was aimed at ensuring it could innovate in line with the fast-moving connected landscape, while developing “disruptive” marketing methods that can help it maintain competitive edge.

“Google and Facebook were start-ups once and have now become part of our daily lives and have pioneered new ways of marketing for us while disrupting the established business model – they have fundamentally changed the marketing landscape.

“So this is an acceleration of what we all know is going on. The pace of change will never be as slow as it is today, so as the speed of innovation increases, powered by digital technology, global digital platforms can emerge sometimes – it seems overnight – and we want to be open to those opportunities.”

He added that it had become a “necessity” to look beyond its own company for innovation and inspiration as to how to tap into the Internet of Things.

“We want to connect with the ecosystem of start-ups so we can bring these new, innovative and disruptive ways of approaching marketing inside, so we can pioneer and experiment with those small, disruptive platforms.

“It’s this whole idea of enabling and equipping our marketers to pioneer in a future world that’s always more connected, more data-driven, more collaborative, more fast-moving, more experiential, always on world, that has driven The Foundry initiative,” he added.

The brand worked with digital ad agency R/GA to launch the platform.

Earlier this year, at Mobile World Congress Unilever's global media innovation chief Jay Altschuler told The Drum the Internet of Things had moved beyond hype and represented interesting opportunities for the company.

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