Companies Can Emulate Success of Start-Ups by Focusing on Customers

29 Jun 2017

Vivian Yang, Public Engagement, World Economic Forum, Tel.: +86 138 1056 7837;

· Learning what customers want, rather than telling them what they need, is key to companies’ digital transformation

· Disrupting your own business model is important part of reinvention

· For more information about the meeting, please visit:

Dalian, People’s Republic of China, 29 June 2017 – Established companies can emulate the success of start-ups by focusing on customers, changing mindsets and daring to disrupt existing business models, panellists said during a discussion on the final day of the Annual Meeting of the New Champions, on how corporates and start-ups can learn from one another.

Mark MacGann, Group Chief Corporate and Public Affairs Officer, and Member of the Group Executive Committee, Veon, Netherlands, said: “When you have invested billions of dollars in infrastructure, in spectrum, in operations and people, and Silicon Valley says ‘okay, that’s lovely, but you’ll have to give it out for free,’ you’d better hurry up and reinvent yourself.”

“What we’ve learned from start-ups is if you are customer focused, if you are laser focused on building the product, and you have a mission ... then you can emulate the success of start-ups and reinvent yourself.”

MacGann said that, as part of its reinvention, Vimpelcom realized that its voice and data business had rapidly become commoditized and it needed to tap into digital technologies to provide value-added services like mobile payments to emerging markets like Pakistan, where many customers still do not have access to bank accounts. It rebranded itself from a global telecom to a global tech company called Veon. It also moved from a customer-owning model to one where it shares profits with its business partners.

One way start-ups are able to be highly responsive to customers’ needs is by establishing a feedback loop with potential customers during the product development stage, said Zhang Yao, Founder and Chief Executive Officer of RoboTerra, USA. But this requires a change in mindset to listening to what the customers like or do not like about a product instead of telling the customers what they need.

André Kudelski, Chairman of the Board and Chief Executive Officer of Kudelski Group, Switzerland, and Chief Innovation Officer for Switzerland, added that being prepared to disrupt one’s existing business model first is important. He said he believes that a “one company, two systems” structure that strikes a fine balance between one part of the organization that is free to experiment and take risks, and the other part comprising an established business that runs on tight processes, may be a solution for corporates struggling to reinvent themselves.

The World Economic Forum’s 11th Annual Meeting of the New Champions is taking place on 27-29 June in Dalian, People’s Republic of China. Convening under the theme Achieving Inclusive Growth in the Fourth Industrial Revolution, nearly 2,000 business leaders, policy-makers and experts from over 80 countries will explore more than 200 sessions over the three days of the meeting.

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