Penny Schiffer, Head of Startup Initiatives, Swisscom, will hold the workshop ‘Intrapreneurship as Driving Force for Corporate Innovation’ on the Congress on Impact Investing on 24 January 2017.

Penny Schiffer joined Swisscom in 2008 and is responsible for Swisscom´s startup engagement and Pirates Hub co-working space. With her team, she scouts startup technology for Swisscom´s core business and growth areas, e.g. advertisement tech, cloud services or AI. She has been working for over seven years as an advisor and mentor to tech start-ups and sits on various juries, such as Venture Kick, ESA BIC Incubator and CTI Invest. Penny Schiffer has been to Silicon Valley as a trend scout several times in order to source innovations for Swisscom. Penny is passionate about helping high tech start-ups thrive.

What makes Swisscom support intrapreneurs?

Within Swisscom, we have a lot of huge innovation projects, but there often is little space for creative ideas of individual employees. However, in many cases it would make sense to just try things out with a small amount of time and money. That’s what the Kickbox initiative is here for: We want to support our internal entrepreneurial spirit and empower our innovation culture, true to the motto “try fast, fail fast, learn fast”. Our employees are motivated and creative, and we want to uncover this potential.

What is Swisscom Kickbox all about?

The concept of kickbox originated with Adobe: They created an internal innovation platform to allow employees to develop and test new, personal ideas. Swisscom now presents a program enabling Swisscom employees to put their ideas into practice: Every employee with a brilliant idea with potential to bring added value to Swisscom can apply for a “kickbox”. Inside the box there’s a starting credit of up to 1,000 Swiss Francs, a time voucher of up to 20% of work time, and guidelines explaining the process of idea validation and tips of internal and external innovation experts. After two months, a jury evaluates their prototypes. The ones with great potential for Swisscom will get the chance to do a Proof of concept, for which they’ll receive a blue box with a credit of up to 10’000 Swiss Francs. The third and last step is the golden kickbox which provides the budget to scale the idea in one of Swisscom´s growth areas.

Why focus on impact?

The traditional innovation structures are highly top-down driven.
Swisscom Kickbox challenges this structure and turns it on its head, into a bottom-up environment. Because every single Swisscom employee gets access to the tools and resources they need to have an impact, the perceived impact of the individual in this huge organization of 18,000 employees is much bigger. Empowering the individual leads to impressive outcome.

Even though we have no specific focus on social impact projects, we have had some projects in that field. One example is Resilio – a project matching platform for former entrepreneurs and seniors. Startups, organizations and corporates can recruit these former entrepreneurs for internships and temporary projects. The seniors collect so-called “entrepreneurial points” for every project they finish. These points can then be swapped for rewards, e.g. participating in workshops, seminars, events etc.

What have we learned so far?

The kickbox program itself was developed in a very iterative and experimental way. Just like in a startup we are constantly trying and failing, and learning from the failures. One such learning is that while some people need a lot of space and freedom to be creative, others require clear guidelines and structures. That’s why our current process supports both approaches: you can either follow the innovation process – or find your own way to success.
A second learning deals with an employee’s external context of: While some people work in a very flexible environment, which allows them to define their own tasks to a certain extent, others work in a very strictly externally controlled environment: for example, call center agents. Together with the Human Resources department we defined a time voucher for the latter to take people out of their environment for a certain time. These are just two examples how we adjust and improve the program based on what we’ve learned.