Corporate + Hackathon = IoT Success?

I wrote a couple of months back about the explosion of IoT accelerators, and how corporates are beginning to play a bigger role in the space.  Corporates can provide APIs to real products, and access to real usage data that developers can hack around with to create new apps and services. GE’s at the forefront of this with the GE+Quirky initiative where they claim to be providing “thousands of patents” to Quirky developers.

We’re also starting to see more and more hackathons hosted by corporates these days. We at Venture Scanner are supporting a hackathon coming up by Toyota called OnRamp to be held September 26-27. It is hosted and organized by NetService Ventures (NSV), an innovation consulting and incubation firm where I am a partner at.

At this event, real-time driving data from Scion FR-S sport cars on circuit and in the city will be provided to developers to have them hack mobile apps and web services.  It’ll be really interesting to see what kinds of new stuff gets brewed at the event, and we will provide all participants with access to Venture Scanner to enhance their hacking capabilities and enable them to find white spaces for new products by studying both our IoT and Connected Transportation scans.


(Photo from

As a pre-cursor to this,  pre-event at the Laguna Seca circuit was held a few weeks back where participants raced the FR-S around the circuit, transferred the actual drive log data from the ECU, and replayed it on PlayStation 3‘s Gran Turismo 6 game. What a great treat for petrol-heads!

While I have yet to see a big IoT startups come out of corporate hackathons, I believe there are very clear benefits for both the entrepreneur and corporates. Here are a few reasons why I think so.

For entrepreneurs:

  • They can play with existing products and technologies already commercialized by the corporates. No need to create a prototype or do a crowd funding campaign so it allows to them to get creative instantly.
  • They can play with actual usage data from a big population. Big data is a key word in IoT these days, but it takes too much time for startups to gather their own usage data. Real products by corporates, in many cases, already have a lot of data.
  • It could lead to an unfair advantage with corporate push in terms of funding, technology provision, and production/manufacturing/logistics support.

For corporates

  • It’s a great place to expose their underutilized products, technologies, and usage data. Especially important is the data part, as many corporations I speak with on a regular basis have gazillions of actual usage data but have no idea what to do with them. I won’t mention any names but I’m sure a lot of corporate people will concur with this.
  • It allows corporates to go on the disruption side. Easier said than done with the reality of innovator’s dilemma, but getting exposure to the speed and dynamics of the startups could create a chemical reaction. They could take part in creation of a new startup, or acquire them at a later time and spin them back in to the system.

I’ve spent my fair time as a corporate person, and personally saw and experienced being disrupted by the new comers. I thought for a time that innovation by incumbents was a mirage. However with the rise of the IoT, I think we are at a very rare time where both parties can benefit from each other to create the next big thing.

Check out my full scan of the IoT space here!



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