Business Model Insights: Lessons for Tech Startups

The nature, scope, and impact of innovation is changing. Klaus Schwab, founder of the World Economic Forum, says that the dominance of large companies over small companies is over and in today’s business world “it is fast fish which eats the slow fish”. But what is an effective innovation strategy for the digital economy? And how do companies ensure speed of innovation does not descend into chaos?

Addressing these pressing business issues, the CoDE team presented ‘Business Model Insights’ in the Innovation Showcase Session at the 8th Future of Wireless Conference in London on 21 and 22 June. Hosted by Cambridge Wireless and UKTI, and sponsored by high-profile names in business and wireless including Barclays, Intel, and Cisco, the conference gathered 30 teams from tech start-ups for intensive coaching in open innovation and agile business practice. Professor Alan Brown and Dr Ben Shenoy of CoDE also coached two start-ups whose focus is on future wireless apps.

‘Business model innovation’ was our angle – tackling all the thorny questions that have little to do with technology, and everything to do with the ‘ecology of technology’ and how technological advances are changing the way we do business, even down to the business model.

Our view: the Business Model Canvas is nothing more than a guess. It’s not a formula, nor a guarantee. It is, instead, a process – of business experimentation, of guessing and refining, of asking and consulting. In the digital world, we develop the business model in parallel with technology – a separate process, but connected at all four corners.

Reinventing innovation is never easy. It’s occurring more rapidly, requiring wider collaboration across disciplines and specialities, and re-defining the concept of intellectual property into something more like capital to be invested, spread, traded and shared.

Open Innovation is a double-edged sword: when do we ‘rub ideas together,’ and when do we keep our ideas under wraps to protect IP?

Large and Small Enterprises have different cultures, and speak different languages: is their close collaboration even going to get off the ground, let alone succeed?

At CoDE, we are trailblazing the next generation of innovation. With our unique combination of next-gen technology, ‘on it’ and ‘in it’ business experience, and academic insight, we are applying radical thinking to traditional problems.

Photograph of Alan Brown courtesy of


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About the Author : Kris Henley

Communications and Outreach for Surrey Business School's Centre for the Digital Economy, a newly-founded research centre to explore the implications of the Digital Economy for business, government and society.