The rest of the 100 (in alphabetical order): Katherine Grass, Amadeus IT Group
Katherine Grass, head of innovation and ventures
Amadeus, joined the travel reservations company in 2006 after founding Chalktech and completing her MBA at Edinburgh University.
Managing a team of more than 15 across the company’s three innovation units has given Grass a perspective on how to join up the insights to aid the parent company.
She said: “One interesting angle for us has been how we have developed a strategy around innovation coupled with the lessons from ventures. Ventures for us as a corporation was the first vehicle for innovation.
“What we learned quickly is that startups were asking for many other things in terms of collaboration and we needed to come up with a portfolio offering of programs to serve their needs. And we did not think this was the typical accelerator approach. Therefore, we have been developing a concept of funding – expertise, reach, technology – to meet all those needs.
“The second program we are launching to complement ventures is an open application program interface (API) [Amadeus for Developers, which] addresses the development community as well as on startups, something our traditional API could not do at Amadeus.
“And now we are launching innovation partnerships to help startups with customer reach with our global network of customers – a customer club, if you will, of forward-thinking customers that want to be connected into the startup world. Our external programs are going to be very complete, and we are just looking at branding and launching this with better communications.
“The other huge shift is now connecting internal innovation ideas to these external programs. Amadeus, like many corporates, has the problem of whether to innovate externally or internally, and there is a bit of competition between those two sides.
“We have now integrated this into one team so the external team under me actually plays a stronger role in how to fund these internal investments and we want to see a portfolio approach to any strategic theme.
“For example, if we have a strategic interest in blockchain, we look at it now holistically to see where we invest via ventures, where we forge partnerships and where we fund internal investment, so it all synchs and makes sense at a corporate strategy level.”
This approach can be seen in its deal-making. Grass pointed to Retterez, a technology to connect bus and air networks, and predictive analytics company Flyr’s investment and follow-on round. Flyr predicts how fares for any flight are likely to behave and calculates the cost of underwriting the financial risk.
Already, Amadeus has seen some successes with the sale of chatbox provider Evature to Priceline, and a secondary sale of its holding in Cabify before its last $120m funding round with Rakutan Ventures.
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