Jade Eckardt 12 Apr 2017 // 6:14AM GMT
LONDON — Next 15 has announced the launch of Project Warhol, a program aiming to boost creativity among employees by transforming their ideas into viable businesses, products, or services — backed by the investment and support of the group and its 17 subsidiary agencies.
The $2m program is entirely internally funded, and CEO Tim Dyson said it was inspired from two different areas — the great solutions in-house teams develop for clients, as well as the drive to invest in new businesses.
"We see all these bright ideas presented as solutions for clients that can be developed into great businesses, and when it comes to investing in new businesses, sometimes it makes more sense to build rather than to buy," said Dyson.
Although Next 15 is funding the program from within, Dyson, who's been with the company since he came onboard as account executive in 1985, says that funding for each individual successful idea that becomes a business is flexible. "The initial $2m seemed like a sensible number to get three or four great ideas off the ground. We'll continue to fund the businesses, but if eventually it looks like one is better suited to outside funding, we have that door open thanks to very good connections," Dyson said.
Employees with pitch-worthy ideas submit a description of the concept, its viability based on market conditions, and explain why it deserves support. They must demonstrate how the project will benefit their specific agency and Next 15. An investment panel consisting of Next 15 board members and agency representatives review the proposal after a personal presentation by each employee. Successful submissions then move on to phase two, where they work with a business mentor while developing a business plan.
"Project Warhol while help drive innovation within the Next 15 group, supporting budding entrepreneurs," said Dyson. "Along with helping employees to work on projects they're personally passionate about, the fund has the potential to help Next 15 as a whole, providing innovative investment opportunities and the chance to help create start-ups with a world class team of people."
This form of in-house incubators follows in the footsteps of big Silicon Valley brands such as Amazon and Target, and is an uncommon venture for a company of Next 15's size. Dyson said that in addition to the funding and opportunity to pitch, emerging entrepreneurs will avoid common pitfalls of startups thanks to the mentorship and support provided.
"We are acutely aware that we have some bright entrepreneurs in our midst with great ideas and we don't want to miss out on those," Dyson said. "I hope this is something that continues for a very long time, if not Next 15 has failed at our job. We hope it will unleash great entrepreneurial ideas that will solve client problems while building great businesses for the next generation. It's amazing what talent exists within your own organization."