Global personal care giant Unilever has expanded the scope of its Foundry initiative to include competitive startup companies that fall under its current business categories.
The Foundry project was first launched 18 months ago and was targeted at marketing-tech startups. Unilever vetted 40,000 companies with the project, with 80 companies having undergone pilot projects and 40 developing into wider projects.
Jeremy Basset, Head of the Foundry program, said, “We’re starting to experiment with a few startups around business-model innovations. If you think about our categories, they’re also being disrupted by startups. The Ubers or Airbnbs of various categories are popping up all over the world. And we think we’ve got an opportunity for them to go from startup to scaleup in the same way that we’ve worked with digital marketing startups.”
The move comes alongside news that Unilever will be opening a US branch of the London-based Foundry. The new branch will further cement the project as one of the bigger corporate programs that reach out to startup companies, with the company spending $15 million to date under the program.
The company will use the same ‘pitch-pilot-partner’ process it has used previously; starting off with an initial project with the view to move on to bigger things. Basset has suggested this may see the company working with what he calls ‘Frenemies’.
Kees Kruythoff, President of Unilever North America, said, “We need to make sure as a big corporation that we continue to accelerate our innovation. Being out there and being connected to an ever-changing world is always good.”