Bridging startups and industry leaders to drive purposeful innovation

When startups and industry leaders speak the same language, they move forward further, faster. Read about Investa and Antler's innovation partnership.

Deepak Jayaraman & Kristy Bartlett

February 7, 2024
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Driving purposeful innovation is not always easy—but it's imperative for high-performance businesses.

Tomorrow’s corporate winners will drive innovation not for show but with purpose, agility, and—most importantly—intentionality, which is innovation’s most important ally.

Converting outputs from innovation activities into value-driving business models usually requires levels of leadership commitment that are difficult to obtain. Innovation budgets often fall prey to the quarterly pressures that affect companies or economic downturns that plague entire industries.  

History reminds us that companies that maintain innovation intentionality tend to prosper in the long term.  

During the 2008-2010 economic crisis, for example, the top decile of companies that invested in innovation, outperformed the market by more than 10% during the crisis and 30% in the immediate post-crisis years. What set these companies apart was their ability to lean into new technologies, new partnerships, and new areas for growth despite easier options to retrench and wait out the storm.

For startups, partnerships with incumbent organizations can be powerful accelerants. Corporate partners provide needed revenue, expert resources, and support as founders confirm product-market fit then scale the growth curve. When successful, these partnerships can give all parties an unfair advantage. It does not need to be a zero-sum game—both the incumbent and the disruptor can win.  

Deepak Jayaraman, Antler Partner & Global Head of Business Development and Collaborations, explains:

“CEOs know the value that startups can offer incumbents. In a recent survey, 80% of CEOs consider business building and engaging with startups as a top-five priority for their business. Despite the widespread recognition of the innovation value that can be generated between strong corporate-startup partnerships, the majority of these endeavors seem to create marginal value—at best. Something isn’t working!
Although typically well-intentioned, these collaborations seem to fail often because of institutional misalignment, corporate bureaucracies and inefficiencies, and competing incentives for resources. Likewise, startups often lack an understanding of corporate processes, budgets, and cadences to make the most of their enterprise opportunity. Simply put, corporates and startups find it difficult to speak the same language. This creates skepticism and retrenchment by both corporate decision-makers and founders."

Investa x Antler: Shaping how people work and live in the future

Designing buildings and communities for the way people work and live today and the way people will work and live in the future, Investa is a leading Australian real estate investment manager, developer, and industry innovator. Investa acquires, develops, and manages real estate assets on behalf of its investors and partners.

“The potential to shape how people work and live in the future creates natural synergies between Investa and Antler, given our belief that founders are the driving force that will improve the quality of life for people around the world.”

Through Antler's global community of tech startups, Investa will have access to a wide spectrum of early-stage solutions to drive opportunities. In addition, Investa will benefit from global insights from entrepreneurs disrupting at the edge and access a global network of founders, investors, and progressive peer organizations.

“By serving as a translator, we are helping Investa and companies within our portfolio bridge the corporate-startup relationship. By facilitating deep problem and opportunity statement analysis we can source and pair Investa with relevant startups across Antler’s portfolio that might have solutions for verified use cases,” Deepak said.

Explore different ways of doing things—or die

Real estate touches all aspects of the human experience and contains massive opportunities for new wealth creation along with global carbon footprint reduction and consequently improved quality of life for all.

Real estate accounts for two-thirds of global assets, making it one of the most valuable industry sectors. Alongside the sheer wealth captured within the industry, the built environment is also, unfortunately, one of the greatest sources of greenhouse gas emissions, accounting for 39% of global energy-related carbon emissions.

Kristy Bartlett, General Manager of Innovation and Transformation at Investa, describes:

“There is a massive opportunity for technology to uplift the real estate industry, but our sector has historically remained digitally nascent.
We’re very good at our core business. But our core business is not driving startup-led innovation. Sourcing startups and evaluating the best ideas to back winning solutions requires significant effort, expertise, and reach. Successful companies know where to focus their internal efforts and where partnering with others will lead to better outcomes.
Our partnership with Antler will bring these to us. Antler’s unique perspectives and insights from working with founders offers us access to a best-in-class startup innovation engine and a front-row seat to the business models that will shape our future.”

Amy Wild, Head of Corporate Operations at Investa, maintains that organizations that aren't leaning into this space and making the time to explore different ways of doing things just won't be here in the next few years.

“Partnerships between large industry players and startups remain a strategic channel for us to source, evaluate, and execute new ideas to drive growth. We’ve worked hard to foster an entrepreneurial culture and mindset, but it’s collaborating with the right people and partners where the magic happens.”
Investa has executed more than four internal and open innovation venture builds, with products ranging from a tool that delivers real-time data from a subset of Investa’s building portfolio to an initiative to innovate the way sustainability metrics are collected and reported.
We’re really proud of these projects but we know we can achieve more.”

That’s where people building companies from day zero come in.

Kristy Bartlett says: “Startup partnerships serve as an opportunity to leverage novel solutions to solve challenges at an expedited speed. Put simply, three strategic opportunities support the business case for Investa’s collaboration with Antler:

  • Continually innovate to find new ways to grow and adapt.
  • Encourage divergent thinking to challenge the status quo.
  • Nurture a thriving local RE (real estate) service ecosystem to enable the sector as a whole to grow and adapt.

The power of diverse and divergent thinking

Innovation inherently comes with risk but the status quo may be riskier.

According to “The Ambidextrous Organization” in the Harvard Business Review, “The Roman god Janus had two sets of eyes—one pair focusing on what lay behind, the other on what lay ahead. General managers and corporate executives should be able to relate. They, too, must constantly look backward, attending to the products and processes of the past, while also gazing forward, preparing for the innovations that will define the future.”

A structured and disciplined approach to innovation is essential to minimize effort, cost, and cultural impact. Intentionality, structure, and discipline support managers as they build confidence in the outcomes of innovation and also provide permission to participate.

Companies cannot do this in isolation, which only creates an echo chamber. The most effective innovations are born when diverse and divergent thinking collides with an insight or data point and finds new ways to view the problem, challenge, or opportunity.

Antler is thrilled to kick off this partnership to fuel Investa’s innovation agenda through Antler’s day zero investment approach. Stay tuned for more learnings and results from this exciting collaboration.

About the author

Deepak Jayaraman & Kristy Bartlett

Deepak Jayaraman is a Partner and Global Head of Business Development and Collaborations at Antler, the world’s day zero investor, and Kristy Bartlett is General Manager of Innovation and Transformation at Investa, the leading Australian real estate investment manager and developer.

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