If there’s one advantage startups have over big businesses, it’s speed. Take Facebook, which for years has worked under the motto, “Move fast and break things.” This year, with almost 7000 employees and $7.8 billion in annual revenue, publicly-traded Facebook (FB) has updated that motto to say the decidedly less exciting, more corporate, “Move fast with stable infra.” As in, infrastructure. Catchy!
Ranking ninth in this year’s Fortune 500, General Electric is one such large company that can’t exactly match the breakneck pace of a fast-moving startup. That’s why GE (GE) today announced it will partner with Frost Data Capital, a startup factory of sorts, to create 30 new startups, all related to big data.
The partnership will last three years, producing ten new companies each year. GE will contribute capital and the resources of three employees from its business development team, but financial terms of the partnership were not disclosed.
Ten companies per year is a feverish pace for a company like GE. Already Frost Data Capital has produced five companies for this partnership. “We would never have been able to get five programs off the ground that fast at GE,” says Bill Ruh, a VP with GE Software. “They got five companies off the ground.”
But churning out new startups has been business as usual for San Juan, California-based Frost Data Capital. Since starting this model in recent years, the company has created 17 companies, including Maana, a search engine for enterprise big data on Hadoop, and GenieDB, a database-as-a-service company.
It works as such: The firm’s team of 15 comes up with ideas centered around big data, and validates their viability by talking to market players. At any given time, Frost Data Capital is considering ten to 15 ideas with the goal of starting around a company a month, according to John Vigouroux, managing partner and president of Frost Data Capital. The best ideas get a team and a seed investment of less than $1 million. Poof, another big data startup is born. The funding comes from Frost Data’s yet-to-be-closed fund, which has raised nearly $40 million, according to a report from AltAssets.
Some of Frost’s companies have gone on to raise more capital, including Cirro, a data analytics tool which raised an $8 million Series A last Fall, and Predixion, a predictive analytics software company which has raised a total of $32.8 million across several rounds of funding.
In the new arrangement, GE will give Frost domain and market expertise to help with the validation part, and Frost will give GE a fast-moving idea machine at a time when big data is poised to upend the industrial sector. Vigouroux predicts the industrial sector will soon see “a global network of intelligent machines that are connected, and talking to each other.” GE wants to be ahead of the curve on that, but it requires moving fast.
In some cases, GE will become a customer of the startups. In others, GE will share its book of clients with the startups. Either way, the conglomerate will get a look at fast-moving innovative big data technologies, and have a say in their development. “They saw we can rapidly scale things, extremely capital efficiently with really meaningful technology,” Vigouroux says. “Yet they have the pulse of the market and know what they need. They have deep domain knowledge in these areas.”
It’s the first partnership of its kind for GE, but not the first time GE has worked with startups. The company which has a partnership with the Startup Health accelerator and with Quirky, a startup for inventions, to share its patents,