Elixirr launches innovation competition The Pitch

23 April 2015 Consultancy.uk

While consultants are often called in to support the development of ideas and overcome barriers, they themselves may have their own ideas that – due to the nature of the job – cannot be developed to fruition. To solve this conundrum, and to further sustain entrepreneurialism inside their own walls, Elixirr has launched ‘The Pitch’, an internal programme that will invest up to £1 million in support of the winning ideas or businesses that come from their own entrepreneurial staff.

Entrepreneurship is foundational in a business environment, most successful businesses grew from humble beginnings to take their place as market leaders in the wider ecosystem. In recent years, and with the rapid development of new markets and digital channels, business ideas can, with care and attention, be rapidly developed and scaled up into multi-billion dollar businesses. Tech giant Uber serves as a well-known recent example; founded in 2009, it was last year valued at $41 billion.

Innovation

Having a good idea in today’s transient world is only one part of the story. Uber in its rapid development had support from a number of venture capital and other capital investors. These investors saw the demand, saw that the business case had room for significant expansion, found that the numbers add up, and that with their support, the future looked eminently profitable. 

Supporting ideas
To support the development of businesses with the ambition to take the world by storm, Elixirr Capital – the venture fund of London-based consultancy firm Elixirr – earlier this week launched a new, innovative scheme. The venture, established in 2013, supports the development of small to medium sized businesses to scale up, not merely by providing start-ups with capital but also with expert advice from its award winning consulting team. The firm’s offerings for start-ups was further bolstered a few months ago when it established a presence on the ground in the start-up ecosystems of Silicon Valley and London to further enhance entrepreneurial development offerings to budding technology start-ups. “We are plugging our clients into the portfolios of the leading venture capital firms to find the most innovative startups relevant to them, as well as helping them engage with the research labs of the tech giants – all with the longer-term aim of solving the corporate innovation dilemma, geared towards creating environments in which innovation can flourish and stick”, comments Stephen Newton, Founder and Managing Partner and Elixirr. 

Elixirr

Elixirr has a deep relationship with entrepreneurship from its beginnings. The firm was founded in 2009 by a group of former consultants with an entrepreneurial spirit, and has since booked stellar growth, with revenue jumping 900% in five years. The business advisory currently operates with a team of 80 professionals active in the UK, Africa, Russia and Switzerland. Its ambition and growth trajectory has not remain unnoticed in the industry – last year Elixirr has named the ‘Best New Consultancy’ by the MCA, and it has been capable of bolstering its team with several high profile advisors from well established firms like Accenture, A.T. Kearney, Deloitte and McKinsey & Company, and plus high-profile industry leaders from RBS, Credit Suisse and M&S.

With the launch of ‘The Pitch’, the consultancy aims at leading by example when it comes to innovation and entrepreneurialism, says Newton. “We are challenging our team to 'walk the talk' on entrepreneurial activity. We say we are a firm of entrepreneurs, now it’s time for us to step up and prove it. We believe that by being innovative and entrepreneurial, we will deliver that to our clients every day. It’s not about creating 'innovation centres' like consulting's usual suspects… it’s about innovation in everything we do.”

Intrapreneurship in consulting
Elixirr’s ‘The Pitch’ will support its own consultants in their ambitions to start businesses in an intrapreneurship programme. The companies’ brightest minds – more importantly, most innovative minds – will be given the freedom to pitch their business ideas or recent start-ups to Newton and team for up to £1 million in support, made up of £500,000 in capital investment and £500,000 in professional services. The team, also including Graham Busby and Karen Newman, will provide support for the development of ideas. Newton adds: “We’re not just asking our team to come up with ideas that we invest in and then walk away. We’re offering them the opportunity to grow a business with the expert advice of our consulting team - and to lead their company."

The move by Elixirr can be deemed relatively pioneering in the consultancy industry, however not entirely novel. Last year Deloitte for instance launched a £25 million fund in the UK to stimulate intrapreneurship, while KPMG globally has also opened up its KPMG Capital fund to cherry-pick the smartest ideas from its talent pool, albeit on a selective basis. Newton however highlights two key differences between the concepts. “With The Pitch, anyone can participate - clients, Elixirr employees or friends of the firm”, adding that Elixirr’s competition has a different vision in mind: “We are looking beyond the barriers of our firm. We are developing entrepreneurs, those with winning ideas will become CEOs of their own companies, no longer Elixirr consultants.”

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Accenture's push into the creative sector is an identity crisis

18 April 2019 Consultancy.uk

In its latest push into the creative sector, Accenture Interactive acquired New York and London-based ad agency Droga5 earlier this month, adding illustrious clients such as HBO, Amazon and The New York Times to its roster of clients. With the latest in a long line of similar purchases, Accenture Interactive further demonstrated its ambition of becoming the globe’s leading trusted advisor to chief marketing officers. Yet according to Ben Langdon, Chairman of Class35, Accenture’s strategy may be heading in the wrong direction.

A press release on Accenture’s website announcing the acquisition sits next to a quote stating that “brands aren’t built through advertising” – a huge contradiction from a consultancy firm hell-bent on becoming the ‘CMO agency of choice’. It’s not alone of course. The entire consulting industry wants a piece of the creative pie right now. In addition to Accenture Interactive, recent acquisitions by PwC Digital, IBM iX, and Deloitte Digital meant that in 2017, for the first time ever, four of the world’s ten largest creative agencies were consultancies.

So just what it is that Accenture wants to achieve from this? For one thing, it’s clearly trying to be a digital transformation business. A one-stop creative shop rivalling more traditional models, it wants to lure CMOs in with the promise of lower ad spend and a “more impactful customer experience”. At the same time, though, it’s still in thrall to those same slinky, shiny branding and advertising agencies it’s attempting to disrupt. The Droga5 acquisition and that of Karmarama a few years before are both testament to this.

There’s a fundamental problem with this, though. Digital transformation businesses don’t sell to CMOs. These people have enough on their plates trying to transform their own marketing skills in order to keep up with an ever-changing market – they just don’t have the time or the energy to concern themselves with digitally transforming a whole business. If Accenture’s purpose is digital transformation, then going after creative agencies is barking up the wrong tree.Is Accenture's push into the creative sector an identity crisis?

Worlds apart

Perhaps more importantly, these two industries are worlds apart in terms of the way they think. Creative agencies are all about ideas, campaigns and consumers. Digital businesses, on the other hand, are customer-driven – they think in terms such as lifetime value, measurement, and efficiency. Customer-led thinking is an entirely different beast to consumer-led thinking.

The reality is that the arrival of digital and an all-encompassing obsession with technology, measurement and social has led to the death of agencies in a reductive, zero-sum, efficiency-focused battle with brands. Indeed, agencies have become so obsessed with the latest tech fads, they’re beginning to forget how brands work. Worse still, they’re beginning to forget how brands are built. And, by forgetting, they’re destroying their own values.

Killing creativity

All things considered, it really feels to me as though Accenture is a chip leader in a game it doesn’t understand. Expensive acquisitions like these show that they’ve got the big money, but they don’t appear to have any idea what they’re doing with it. Take talent, for example. The best talent in the creative industry right now is out in the market; it’s not tied to any one agency. Both agencies might well be at the top of their game, but why would a consulting firm waste so much money on buying them when they could hire high-quality creative talent on a contingent basis instead?

As their presence in the top 10 creative agencies shows, there is a growing trend in which Accenture, like many of the other big players, are buying up agencies as if they were nothing more than keywords. What they’re really buying, though, is a collection of credentials, clients and IP. Unfortunately, the talent that created those credentials aren’t going to stay at the business, the clients that hired the agency in the first place won’t be interested in buying what is basically just another part of Accenture, and the IP never really existed to begin with.

Droga5, for example, was one of the few agencies that did great brand work the old-fashioned way – undoubtedly something that made it attractive to Accenture in the first place. The irony, though, is that by leading it further away from the way of working that made it so special, the consulting giant will kill its creativity.

“Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record…. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.”

If pressed, the recently acquired agency staff at Accenture will tell you just how dysfunctional the new arrangement is. They’re largely unfulfilled. Rarely do they feel their work has any sort of meaning or purpose. What’s more, the different disciplines have found little or no common ground, and find it hard to work together as a cohesive whole. It’s not surprising, then, to see talented people leaving in droves.

Beyond the window dressing 

It’s clear, then, that consulting firms and creative agencies are no easy bedfellows. But in his company’s defence, Accenture Interactive’s Senior Managing Director for North America, Glen Hartman, described its culture as being “far, far away from what a stereotypical consulting firm would look like. Our office and studios look a lot like Droga5’s.”

In demonstrating a belief that office design equates to workplace culture, this statement serves as an illustration of how confused Accenture is right now. It wants to justify its new strategy so badly, it’s started dressing like a creative agency. But if you look beyond the window dressing and see that you and your partners are speaking a different language with a different purpose, selling to different people in a different market, there’s no getting away from the fact that you’re different.

Accenture Interactive has been dazzled by its ambitions to become the CMO agency of record, and it wants to dazzle others with its new direction. But, in flashing its cash, it is spending millions on acquiring nothing of any value.

Related: Space between consulting firms and creative agencies is converging.