Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, like other groups, is very involved in the development and support of start-ups, thanks to an ecosystem of Venture Capital (VC). How is this collaboration with VC funds organised within the Group?
Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield in the innovation ecosystem with URW Link
In 2015, with the creation of URW Link, the Group’s open innovation platform, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield found that it was key to collaborate with start-ups tp:
- Test solutions rapidly on concrete matters, such as urban farming, robots, circular economy, CRM, etc.,
- Roll out innovation projects throughout the Group (help the solutions grow once they are tested),
- Spread and grow an innovation culture among the Group’s teams.
As a consequence, URW Link’s mission is to source innovation externally, to identify new promising solutions, to test them efficiently in the Group’s assets via proofs of concepts (POCs), and then to potentially deploy them. URW Link has an internal role as well, to encourage and value the culture of innovation within the Group.
The goal is for URW Link to make the relationship with start-ups as efficient as possible by facilitating the execution of tests of the winning brands of tomorrow and their technologies within the Group’s assets portfolio.
URW Link has developed a large network of partners around the Group to identify promising solutions: incubators: among them, leading VC funds.
URW Link’s relation with VC funds
To accelerate relations with start-ups, URW Link has invested and collaborated with three VC funds:
- Partech is a leading VC fund, especially present in Europe and in the United States,
- Raise is an investment company and an endowment fund for growth start-ups, a go-to partner linking large groups and start-ups,
- Finally, Blisce/ invests in mature startups in the retail, consumption and media sectors. As a transatlantic actor, Blisce/ can spot large scale strategic partners.
The funds enable URW Link to source the most promising start-ups, by preselecting them to answer the Group’s needs and its innovation priorities, and to get, in the long term, a financial return.
In addition to this capacity to meet start-ups, VC funds turn out to be key strategic partners for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. On one hand, they play an important role in the Group’s technology watch: by looking at what start-ups are currently developing, we can better understand the technologies and trends that create the consumption of tomorrow. On another hand, URW Link can discuss with the funds – as “sparring partners” of our innovation topics, because they are capable of challenging and helping us enhance and fine-tune our support to start-ups. For instance, these funds contributed to designing the content, the business model of the concept store Pyramid. dedicated to young French DNVBs that recently opened in the Carrousel du Louvre.
This collaboration with VC funds is fundamental to allow the Group to accelerate and implement its innovation strategy. Indeed, understanding the market trends, identifying the best entrepreneurial projects and constantly enhancing the Group expertise to support start-ups.
Besides actively participating in these funds, Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield has a close relationship with over twenty VC actors, that nourish the Group’s dealflow. This is a win-win relationship benefitting both the Group and also the VC funds, the latter finding a major driver of business development for start-ups in these partnerships. Indeed, for the VC funds, these start-ups are a potential new source of business: recruiting start-ups that the Group partners with enables them to consider for example the creation of a new business line.
Partech maintains close links with actors such as Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield. This relationship enables us to have the opinion of this retail and real estate expert on start-ups we are looking at, to generate opportunities for our portfolio companies, and to develop our knowledge in the verticals where innovation is permanent.Tanguy Confavreux
Our venture capital ecosystem as well as our investments in VC funds are key success factors in our innovation strategy. This relation is beneficial for three reasons: for Unibail-Rodamco-Westfield, VC is way of sourcing and working with the most promising startups; for the funds, knowing and collaborating with URW Link is a way of accelerating their startups’ businesses; and for the latter, the added value of funds goes way beyond financial funding.Jean Collet