Meet Agorize, the acclaimed open innovation platform that connects large companies (like Google!) looking for fresh innovation with a global community of students and startups looking for chances.
In today’s fast-paced market, large corporations can struggle to find the nimble innovation needed to keep up with our constantly changing, digitalised world. On the flipside, innovators still making a name for themselves such as students, startups or entrepreneurs can struggle to connect with real opportunities. Enter Agorize, a multi-award-winning open innovation platform launched in 2011 that seeks to connect big brands looking for ideas with a global community of innovators looking for work and chances. Ditching the ancient ritual of freelancing and recruitment for an online, competition-led approach that has so far attracted five million applicants, Agorize is a one-stop-shop where companies can tout for talent, and that talent can pitch to win prizes, access, opportunities and even jobs. We sat down with their CEO of Asia Mathieu Toulemonde to hear how he sees these competitions as the fast track to tomorrow’s world.
Following the stuff of software legends Microsoft and Facebook, Agorize also found its humble beginnings in the stuffy dorm room of three university students – this time in Paris, thanks to its three co-founders Charles Thou, Yohan Attal and Yohann Melamed. Mathieu recalls the story, “They were very complimentary, each coming from a business, engineer and communications background. It was when they were brainstorming innovative solutions together that they realised they were so much more impactful because they came from different backgrounds and said, ‘Okay, but let’s do it online and at a much larger scale.’ And this is when they started creating a platform connecting people together.”
This concept of combining talent and expertise to cultivate the best innovative solution has become the soul of Agorize. Today, they are slowly revolutionising crowdsourcing through a matchmaking algorithm that connects over five million innovators across 190 countries with large, global companies touting for ideas. “It’s like a funnel,” explains Mathieu. “At the beginning, you have thousands of innovators coming from dozens of countries, and only the best are invited to present their ideas in front of top management. It’s very intense, but it generates the best, most innovative solution in just six months, whereas normally it would have taken years.”
The most engaging aspect of Agorize is the way they have literalised the meaning of a competitive market in what’s an innovative solution in itself. Take their recent project for Pernod Ricard China, the umbrella corporation for brands like Absolut. In response to the booming demand for cocktails and a rapidly digitised China, they wanted to build an industry standard marketplace for the largest community of cocktail-lovers, bartenders and bar owners in China and needed innovative ideas from local talent to get them there. With promises of a partnership with Pernod Ricard China on the project as well as their expert coaching and mentoring for ambitious startups and students, Agorize helped them attract that talent. “It’s a positive competition and a win-win situation for both parties,” says Mathieu.
This is just one of their many projects surfacing in Asia, including aiding Singapore Airlines in rethinking their customer service or even AXA Hong Kong in reaching insurance into a millennial market. For the last two years, Mathieu has piloted a growing team of 15 in Hong Kong, with hopes of relocating to Singapore and expanding to Tokyo and Shanghai in the coming year. “We soon realised that, without even promoting our challenges in Asia, we had a lot of innovators coming from places like China and India. We saw a need to connect local companies with local talent, and that’s why we came to Hong Kong to set up our Asian office,” he says of the move.
Once on the ground, Mathieu discovered big opportunities for Agorize. “The market in Asia is so complicated because of the language barriers and fast-moving pace. When it comes to new recruitment, it’s hard to hire talents with relevant skills because universities in Asia just haven’t caught up yet. In Hong Kong the employment rate is super low; all companies are struggling to recruit and people are struggling to find matches.”
Branding themselves as the “missing link”, Mathieu’s team worked tirelessly for a year to open traditional companies in Asia up to the idea of engaging with external parties and the somewhat foreign concept of open innovation competitions. Reaping the rewards of a year’s hard work, they now have 50 clients including Amazon and Singapore Airlines, as well as a presence throughout nine different locations from India to the Philippines through to China. “It’s no longer open innovation in Hong Kong as it was initially, it’s open innovation in Asia.”
Connecting millions of international innovators with clients like Microsoft, Uber and Google on just one online platform, it’s no surprise that Agorize won the Best Collaborative SaaS Platform 2016 in French Tech. “The ambition is to become the open innovation platform in Asia and, on a personal level, really bring this vision of going multi-local positive,” says Mathieu of their quest. Think you’ve got the mind behind an innovative solution of the future? Your search for opportunity is over – Agorize really couldn’t make it any easier to be a genius.