Unilever offers £100k boost for UK media start-ups

Anglo-Dutch consumer goods giant Unilever has announced its support for Collider12, a start-up incubation scheme backed in part by the Department of Business, Skills and Innovation.

Collider12 is an accelerator project designed to encourage collaboration between media-related start-ups and large companies. It is seeking 10 early stage start-ups, who will be offered the chance to win £100,000 in funding plus mentoring from the companies involved.

Unilever Ventures, the corporation’s investment arm, has announced that it will offer a further £100,000 to any of the start-ups it finds particularly compelling.  

In exchange, Unilever hopes to get early access to innovative technologies that may be relevant to its interaction with customers.

"We’re interested in a wide variety of digital technologies," said Phil Giesler, vice president at Unilever’s new business unit. "[Digital technology] affects how Unilever communicates with consumers, how the consumers buy our products, and how we promote those products."

It is one part of the corporation’s ‘open innovation’ strategy. In November, the company announced its support for a new incubator scheme for start-ups relating to the ‘Internet of things’, run by accelerator programme Springboard.

Giesler says the Internet of things, in which objects and appliances are connected to the Internet, could offer Unilever a new way to interact with customers inside their homes.

"Consumers use ours products in the kitchen and bathroom," he said. "If we can get an interface with those consumers in those places, and maybe understand how the devices and the white goods in those areas are working, it could open up possibilities in terms of promotion or purchase.

"It’s very early days, though, which is why we’re getting involved in a speculative way."

Unilever Ventures has invested in a number of US start-ups, including recipe search website yummly.com. "Simply being involved with that business, and seeing how digital content around food is developing, is a very significant benefit for us," said Giesler.

"We’re very keen to understand the trends of the future that are going to be important to companies like us," he said. "And while it’s great to be able to talk to the Facebooks of this world, we know this is a very rapidly changing field, and that start-ups can be below the radar until they suddenly take off."

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Ben Rossi

Ben was Vitesse Media's editorial director, leading content creation and editorial strategy across all Vitesse products, including its market-leading B2B and consumer magazines, websites, research and...

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