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What brands can learn from startups' responses to Covid-19


By Rebecca Stewart, Trends Editor

April 3, 2020 | 3 min read

Should corporations be taking learnings from – and working alongside – startups to ready their coronavirus business response efforts? Nestlé -marketer-turned- incubator boss Pete Blackshaw thinks so.

Should businesses take lessons from startups in how to respond to Covid-19 disruption?

Cintrifuse currently has $126m dollars invested in 26 VC firms, including online pharmacy app Medly

Having previously led FMCG digital strategy, Blackshaw is now chief executive of Cintrifuse; a syndicate ‘fund of funds’ and startup accelerator created by P&G, Kroger, Western & Southern and other major entities in the Greater Cincinnati region.

Earlier this month, the group unveiled its own resource guide for startups looking to scale back against the backdrop of a pandemic, but behind the scenes, its community has been quick to get to work projects Blackshaw believes bigger, more established firms can take lessons from.

“We want to use what our startups do as inspiration. What big companies need more than anything right now is confidence and inspiration.

"Startups have the power to spark a different kind of thinking and get big firms to lather up to a discontinuous step-change in terms of the way they transform,” he said in an interview recorded as part of The Drum’s Digital Transformation Festival.

Cintrifuse currently has $126m dollars invested in 26 VC firms. This includes AM Health, which was one of the first players to bring certified home Covid-19 testing kits and New York-based pharmacy app Medley which has been “rewriting the rules” around how medical supplies are delivered.

Blackshaw believes big brands have a lot to learn from these fast movers.

“What’s happening right now is a tragedy and we [as an industry] have to double down and address it. And we have to use some of the innovation we’re seeing as inspiration and motivation to move faster.

"Who would have believed that habits could shift so quickly and startups could pivot so quickly in this direction? We’re all saddled down by cynicism, old rules, legacy processes and we need to ask how to take what we’re seeing in this crisis and use that energy to think differently.”

He finished: “I see [startups] as playing a critical transformation role. For a lot of companies out there, we want to show them that startups are moving incredibly fast and they can too move the needle and help solve this horrible crisis.”

You can watch the full interview here and view more content from The Drum's Digital Transformation Festival here.

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