Intrapreneurship: How Big Companies Build Successful Startups from Within.

Intrapreneurship has been a great way global companies have been able to nurture their innovations from within. In this article we explore how big companies are guiding internal startups to become successful entities on their own.


Intrapreneurship has been on the scene longer than many can actively recall, however, it’s been made mainstream with the rise of technology, popularised by Steve Jobs’ famous quote about the Macintosh team who worked at Apple Computer at the time, “a group of people going, in essence, back to the garage, but in a large company.” This indeed, is the ideal definition of Intrapreneurship.

Intrapreneurship leverages the nimbleness of startups, the resources and support of larger companies, combining them to birth innovations within an atmosphere that might not have happened if the two weren’t leveraged together. With the success of everyone, startups within larger companies have seen a surge in recent decades.

There are some well-known examples, for instance, Google, well known for embracing the intrapreneurial spirit within its culture. The company, now called, Alphabet, is known for allowing employees use 20% of their time to do personal projects (a practice that many say has since been stopped). This practice, said to be created to ‘encourage innovation’ led to the creation of Gmail, along with Google News, Google Adsense and Google Glasses amongst others.
Paul Buchheit, who created Gmail, began the project in 2001 and worked on it up until April 1, 2004, about 3 years. Societe Generale is another great example of a large corporation that has inculcated the practice of intrapreneurship within the company to birth innovation. In doing this, they developed a program, called Internal Startup Call that creates future products and services. Society Generale has invested quite a bit in their internal intreprenuership program, having 15,000 participants in 9 countries, with an investment of about 150 million euros. The result? 70 start-ups, a number of successful products and one of the most successful incubation programs in the world.

Intrapreneurship in a company is usually championed by a unique individual, a changemaker, an intrapreneur. This person is someone with a clear vision, a wilful personality to negate naysayers and move ahead no matter what. Steve Jobs was no doubt such a one. This person seeks to drive change within the constraints of the larger organization where she exists. In today’s business scene, every company needs to have an intrapreneur. Someone that is focused on their goals for better move novel solutions that answers to the needs of the market, that along with a dogged determination to succeed, but with the flexibility to learn from failures. 

From Apple’s “Macintosh,” to 3M’s “Post-It Notes,” intrapreneurship has been leveraged by large businesses to stay competitive and drive innovation in the long term. It is still a very potent and proven tool for success. The results are potentially new revenue streams, a company that’s more adept to change, and a culture that constantly drives innovation and growth just to say a few.