Launched in 2014, the Unilever Foundry is a global platform for tech startups and innovators to engage, collaborate and explore business opportunities with Unilever and its 400+ brands and functions.
What is the core mission of the Unilever Foundry?
The core mission is to transform Unilever’s growth model to make sustainable living commonplace, and collaboration with innovators is one way to achieve our ambitions. Since its launch, the Unilever Foundry has worked with pioneering startups on more than 100 pilots around the world.
Our brands and functions create briefs via the Unilever Foundry that outline specific business challenges that need solving and opportunities we are seeking to grasp. One unique advantage that the Unilever Foundry holds is our global network. Startups are not limited to briefs in the region, but can leverage Unilever’s connections to explore opportunities worldwide.
Photospire – a platform that allows retailers to develop unique, data-driven and personalised videos for customers – is an example of a startup that answered a Unilever Foundry brief in Singapore and ended up working with our teams in the United Kingdom.
Do you believe that corporate and startup collaborations can create synergy?
Yes. The Unilever Foundry is one platform that Unilever is investing to leverage this synergy. We believe that by working together, startups and corporations can unlock benefits that will be advantageous to both parties. There are also huge lessons to be learned on both sides of the table.
In September 2017, Unilever released a whitepaper, ‘The State of Innovation’. The research we conducted led us to predict that startups and corporates will continue to work closely together – even side by side in the same office, which we are doing at LEVEL3 in Singapore.
What’s unique about LEVEL3?
A first of its kind, LEVEL3 is a collaborative workspace created by the Unilever Foundry and Padang & Co in February 2017, and is based in Unilever’s regional headquarters in Singapore. LEVEL3 is now home to more than 60 companies and ecosystem partners such as Microsoft, Google and Deloitte.
The platform brings together Unilever, its partners, startups and entrepreneurs to encourage innovation and create new partnerships that deliver real business impact. The space is designed to encourage informal networking and collaboration – conversations between Unilever employees and startups often occur at the coffee bar as individuals grab their morning joe or a mid-day coffee.
What makes LEVEL3 unique is that not only does it provide early-stage companies with direct access to a business network – starting with Unilever, which is just one staircase away – but also to other corporates that are part of our community like Microsoft, Cargill, and JWT. We recognise that one of the challenges that startups face is gaining access to large organisations, and to understand their needs and ways to build scalable solutions.
At LEVEL3, we open up two-way communication between startups and Unilever. This has worked really well for startups who wish to partner with Unilever’s brands and operational functions such as supply chain and human resources. As the first consumer goods company to collaborate with startups globally, Unilever has also achieved learnings and exposure to the latest technology available for sustainable growth through these partnerships. It has been a win-win situation for all at LEVEL3.
What’s next for the Unilever Foundry SEAA?
As emerging markets in Southeast Asia such as Indonesia, Philippines, Thailand and Vietnam continue to develop and progress, young companies have more opportunities than ever to solve real world problems. This has led the region to becoming a melting pot for startups, resulting in an ecosystem that encourages greater tech disruptions and ideations.
Recently, LEVEL3 announced five pillars to focus its startup efforts in high-growth sectors including Marketing and Advertising Technology, Data and Artificial Intelligence, Logistics and E-commerce, Food and Agriculture Technology and Sustainable Growth Technology. We want to work with the brightest talents to leverage growth opportunities in Southeast Asia, and welcome tech startups operating in these areas who want to make a difference to collaborate with us.
The Unilever Foundry firmly believes that innovation will continue to play a crucial role in the development of these markets and is one of the reasons for basing LEVEL3 in Singapore. By establishing Unilever’s co-working platform in Singapore, it allows us to connect the regional entrepreneurial community to Unilever’s brands and functions.
LEVEL3’s close proximity to these emerging markets will also enable startups in Southeast Asia to leverage on Unilever’s expertise, mentorship and guidance, providing them with effective support to scale successfully.
Startups are invited to apply to be part of the Unilever Foundry at foundry.unilever.com
LEVEL3 is Singapore’s most vibrant co-working space for experimentation and innovation. By fostering a collaborative culture and providing proximity to our corporate and government partners, we provide startups a unique opportunity to prototype their ideas and solutions in a real-world business context. LEVEL3 is now open to tech startups and entrepreneurs, not just those in Singapore but also startups that have an innovative product or service and are ready to scale in this part of the world. LEVEL3 now houses 60 startups and 170 members. It has facilitated 20 mentorship pairings between Unilever executives and startups and developed pilots with 15 startups in the past year.
About Unilever Foundry
Unilever Foundry is a global platform for partnering with the world’s best startups to accelerate innovation on a global scale. It brings together Unilever and startups, to encourage innovation and create new partnerships that deliver real and meaningful business impact. Unilever Foundry focuses on the following areas: Marketing Tech & Ad Tech, Enterprise Tech, Products & Ingredients, New Business Model Innovation and Social Impact.
Unilever Foundry provides a single entry-point for innovative startups seeking to partner with Unilever, enabling the company’s global brands to experiment with and pilot new technologies more efficiently and effectively. It provides startups with the opportunity to develop and work on global projects, access mentoring from marketing professionals, and tap into funding through Unilever Ventures.
About Padang & Co
Padang & Co is an innovation catalyst for corporates and government agencies, helping startups and corporates such as Unilever connect and create new opportunities for innovation.
Padang & Co is the architect of LEVEL3 and will be designing the programmes and managing the space. We believe LEVEL3 is a unique opportunity to ignite innovation and ultimately generate business activity for all.