5 Ways Corporate Intrapreneurs Can Grow Through Startup Engagement

I worked in corporations for 15 years before realizing I was ready to start my own business.

Building something on my own was never a career goal of mine, but the demands of my last corporate role as the Global Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship at The Coca-Cola Company opened my eyes to new ways of thinking and gave me new found confidence that I could succeed under my own shingle.

Carie Davis | photo from The Enterprise Growth Institute 

Carie Davis | photo from The Enterprise Growth Institute 

As the Global Director of Innovation & Entrepreneurship, my charge was to find ways to partner with the startup community to help internal innovation teams learn new methods. As a result, I needed to quickly find new partners and understand how we could all support each other with “giving first” being the guiding mantra. The initiative resulted in innovation and entrepreneurship training for over 1,000 employees and the creation of an EIR program to partner with entrepreneurs for transformational growth opportunities.

I had a great experience building these programs for the consumer giant, but felt a pull to start my own consulting practice helping other companies build their entrepreneurial innovation capabilities. Now, three years later, I have consulted with a series of global consumer goods companies like Cox, First National Bank, Black & Veatch, and Bayer to implement tools and systems that deliver a steady flow of innovative ideas and doubles the speed at which ideas move through the innovation pipeline.

If you are a corporate “intrapreneur”—a manager within a company who promotes innovation—who has always wanted to start something but aren’t sure how, or simply looking for renewed inspiration in your current role, here are 5 tips to get you on the right path.

photo by Johnson Wang

photo by Johnson Wang

1. Engage with the startup community.

Dip your toe in the water and expose yourself to this creative and passionate community at networking events, Meetups, pitch competitions, etc. Attending these types of events are a low commitment way to see who’s who in your innovation community, meet other corporate “intrapreneurs,” and maybe even learn about a new solution to a current challenge.

2. Find a startup to partner with to help solve a current business challenge.

Working with a startup tackling one of your core business issues will help you develop your own skills in implementing new technologies. Startup partnerships give you on the job training - teaching you about new business models and new tools tangential to the actual startup technology (like how are new, smaller, nimble companies managing files, sharing information, managing contacts, communicating, etc.).

3. Level up your capabilities in your current job.

Attend a workshop to learn customer discovery techniques, the business model canvas concept, or a new technical skill. Not only will you learn about the first steps you should take to start your own business, but you will also meet aspiring entrepreneurs and feel inspired to build by learning a new skill.

4 - Mentor a startup.

Give first and create as much value for them as possible. Make introductions, cull advice from your years of experience, and share your industry knowledge. Helping someone on the road to creating something new makes you more aware of the skills you have to offer and your abilities to also break out on your own, too.


5 - Sign up for office hours a local incubator.

Incubators are a breeding ground for new technology, driven entrepreneurs, and fresh ideas. By positioning yourself as a subject matter expert and offering guidance on an ad-hoc basis to startup teams you will both gain exposure to more business models and practice asking good questions.

These tips and tactics will help you (at a minimum) feel inspired and engaged in your current role - a great outcome! Or you may find you’re ready to take the leap into entrepreneurship - join me!

About Carie Davis:


Most recently, Carie Davis co-founded The Enterprise Growth Institute, a platform for the business innovation community to learn and experiment, where she teaches methods that drive organizational and personal growth. Carie is also the Managing Director for The BridgeCommunity Atlanta, a startup commercialization program in partnership with Fortune 500 companies including Intercontinental Hotel Group, Cox and SunTrust, accelerating the application of startup technologies to core enterprise challenges. Carie also runs Your Ideas Are Terrible, an idea acceleration program for teams and large organizations.

Connect with Carie:


Intrapreneurs, entrepreneurs and anyone in between is invited to join us in the Hatch Tribe Members Circle! Our online community is built for women entrepreneurs just like you to connect, learn and grow. Check out the details & become a member at www.hatchtribe.com/memberscircle