Anyone with an idea can show up, but individuals and teams get 10 minutes, and only 10 minutes, to present an idea. Top executives, including CA Technologies’ CTO Otto Berkes, listen to the ideas and then take 10 minutes to ask any follow-up questions. To enter a pitch event, all that’s needed is a solid idea. Teams should have also considered five crucial, initial questions: What problem are you solving? Who has that problem? How are you going to solve that problem? What value would solving that problem provide for the people who have it? And could you solve that problem in a way that isn't easily bought or copied? “The whole idea is to be lightweight and supportive on intake, and to have a robust program if they come in,” Watt says.
A Lean Startup Within a Giant Company
Once teams are brought into the program, it runs in a fashion similar to some of the more well-known startup accelerators out there, such as DreamIt and TechStars. Each team is run like its own startup, even though it’s within the corporate structure of CA. The people on those teams are called founders. Founders are given advisers after their skills have been assessed to determine where gaps are in their thinking and talents.
Investment money for each team comes from a pool CA Technologies has allotted specifically for this program, and each startup receives a budget—that way they know exactly how much money they have to take their startup from the idea stage to the execution phase. Every month, founders have “Pivot/Pause/Persist” meetings with their advisers, during which they determine whether a new business should shift its approach, keep on going, or stop entirely.
“Some ideas we hope will open new markets completely. Those are the gems. We want all ideas, but those are the ones we’re really looking for in this program,” says Watt. “It’s all about building stuff that matters, and learning what works quickly.”
Indeed, perhaps the most striking aspect of CA Technologies new incubator program is just how quickly the team that set up the incubator learned what would work. From the start, Watt says, those on board knew the program would have to be established according to lean principles. There would be no room for 70-page pitch decks that are assembled, read once, and then tossed into the garbage can. The incubator got a big boost early by pulling in four businesses that had already been incubating inside CA Technologies.
But the truly interesting thing, Watt says, is that once word got out about a new incubator starting up, everybody wanted to help. Teams across the company—in engineering, legal, marketing, sales and human resources—started jumping into the effort.
“CA attracts a lot of really innovative people, and people are passionate about things like this,” Watt says. “Once they saw it and understood what it was, there was no convincing to be done.”