BLOG POST: Introducing Stora Enso – Most Startup Friendly company 2020

Tribe Tampere is awarding annually the Most Startup Friendly Company in Finland. In 2020 the award was handed out for the third time. The award aims to recognize exceptional achievements, which especially industrial corporations have done to foster startup collaboration methods and improve innovation and competitiveness. Tribe Tampere is convinced that the award will stimulate collaboration and investments in startup companies, and boost internal startup culture development in industrial companies in Finland.

Meet the winner of 2020 Stora Enso, with VP, Digital, Antti Vuolli telling more about their startup activities!

Part of the bioeconomy, Stora Enso is a leading global provider of renewable solutions in packaging, biomaterials, wooden construction and paper. We employ some 25 000 people in more than 30 countries and our shares are listed on the Helsinki and Stockholm stock exchanges. Our fiber-based materials are renewable, recyclable and fossil free. Our solutions offer low-carbon alternatives to products based on finite resources. We believe that everything that is made from fossil-based materials today can be made from a tree tomorrow.

Story of the startup unit

Stora Enso’s aim is to provide customers with renewable alternatives to traditional fossil-based products. We also have a long-term target to have 15% of the annual revenue coming from new products and services which didn’t exist in our portfolio three years ago. Consequently, we need to accelerate our innovation agenda. One key enabler is to innovate and implement new solutions together with fast moving and agile start-ups.

Stora Enso team selecting startups

Now we have integrated the startup collaboration to our innovation agenda. We have systematic approach in dealing with startups through our two programs, Stora Enso Accelerator and Combient Foundry Venture Client Program. The Accelerator program is a leadership program where Stora Enso employees work alongside startups over a few months period on specific themes – for example how to create a plastic free supply chain or how to leverage digitalisation. Not only do our employees and the startups learn from each other, but the program has also resulted in several continued partnerships. The Combient Foundry, Venture client alliance, is a joint program between several large Nordic companies aiming to find startups as business partners in a systematic way. 

The venture client model builds on open innovation, which requires the corporates to be quite open about their business challenges and opportunities publicly towards the startup ecosystems. The startups bringing the most suitable solutions to the table are then contracted to co-create and partner with us. The setup of Combient Foundry is quite unique as it involves several large corporates, which also means that the start-ups get exposed to many potential large clients at the same time. In addition to our startup engagement programs we build new corporate ventures through our breakthrough innovation process model, which allows the new ventures act more independently in their go to market. One example case is Box Inc – a B2B marketplace for renewable packaging.

Benefits of startup activities

First, we want to keep on innovating new products and services, thus helping us renew our portfolio. Secondly, working with startups has been tremendously rewarding and at the same time challenging the ways we work. Start-ups live by the day, so to become faster and more agile we have organized our ways of working to better support the collaboration. Moreover, we have created a set of internal instructions to outline how we engage with startups when comes to sourcing and legal matters, as well as a process with clear roles and responsibilities for how to facilitate the start-up programs internally.

For startups working with Stora Enso is a great opportunity to co-create and scale their business globally. Reference value of corporates like us help in getting to next level in business and potentially funding. If they get through one of our programs, it is one proof point of being one of the global top companies in the area of business. We typically get applications for each cycle from average 20-30 countries, thus going through the selection process is a major achievement. In addition, if startup is part of Combient Foundry program, exposure to other Combient companies, which can lead to new business opportunities. This has happened multiple times. For example, first run project with Stora Enso, then soon after with other Combient companies, Husqvarna and Södra.

Antti Vuolli on stage presenting Combient Foundry

Highlight moments

One highlight is the overwhelming feedback we have received from both start-ups and our own business. For example, the one of the recent Combient Foundry program we received a rating of 9,4 out of 10 from the start-up participants, and at the same time the start-ups testified that their sales cycle had been shortened with an average of 91 days. Moreover, the time from first meeting to value is very short. A showcase of this this quick value generation is the collaboration with the start-up company Snap Support and a couple of Stora Enso paper printing customers. In that case we were able to convert an early idea about how to improve remote technical customer support into a working solution for our customers just 6 months later.

Want to be a part of the future with Stora Enso?

Working with startups is increasingly bringing us business results. We work with startups long term and it helps us to reach our goals together with the startups. We want to do it systematically as an integral part of our innovation agenda. Innovation never happens in isolation.

If a startup wants to collaborate with us, our recommendation is to apply through Combient Foundry cycles or Stora Enso annual Accelerator program. This is the most efficient way to deal with us. We have pre-defined the areas of interest and thus it is a mutually easy to focus on value creation.

Top management support is paramount to success. Be systematic in your approach and have clear business objectives for the collaboration. Be prepared to co-create and change your processes to support the collaboration. 

Antti Vuolli, VP, Digital, Stora Enso