Better Now claimed the top prize at CXHack Fazer – A 36 hour digital foodathon organized by Fazer Food Services and Tieto Experience Hub.

It is great to see more and more big corporations starting to interact with the startup world, be it directly or indirectly. In this case, a cooperation between two large players was looking for novel solutions to motivate Fazer Food Services restaurants customers to leave feedback and to find ways to improve the physical food experience via digitalization.

Hackathons as a way to foster innovation and get some of the out-of-the-box thinking on top of the tapping into the startup world, have clearly awaken the interest of big players as we see more and more events like this organized. For many, hackathons seem to be the first step of more concrete actions towards building strategic partnerships with startups, thus outsourcing part of the R&D, especially related to those functions which are not in the very core of the corporation itself, but are complementary to it and can help expanding product or service portfolio. Naturally getting the corporate employees to start thinking more “lean” is one part of the equation too.

The Teams

After 36 hours of hard work and fun, topped with a guidance from food industry and UX expert mentors, total of ten teams presented their solutions for the audience at Aalto Design Factory in Espoo. Several teams had followed the guidelines and had focused on the feedback part, but we saw many other interesting concepts too, like a social network for lunch-goers, an app to save water with your eating habits, featured meal plans according to your preferences, live webcam to see what’s available at the glass cabinet, and definitely the most surprising concept of them all, drones as task managers and data collectors inside the restaurant. Yes, you read correctly. Drones. Inside the restaurant.

The Winning Solution

Out of the four teams that had created their solution around getting customer feedback, the one that stood out was Better Now, team formed by Rahul Abhisek, Laura Leppälä and Ann Plough. Their solution was to install wireless smart buttons in different touchpoints at the restaurant to enable fast and easy way to collect feedback of the customer journey. Just with a press of a button. They also had done a proper validation at one of the Amica restaurants at the Aalto campus and collected over 300 actions in less than three hours. Impressive!

As I had promised to give as a bonus prize free Arctic15 tickets to the team showing most potential as a proper food tech startup, Better Now was my clear choice for the bonus win. And when the distinguished jury, which consisted of top-tier influencers in the digital and food sectors, including innovative chef and restaurateur Richard McCormick as well as serial entrepreneur Taneli Tikka, couple of minutes later announced the main competition winner – Better Now, I could not have agreed more with their decision.

I am looking forward to see the solution implemented in the Fazer restaurants in the near future. The winning team had even gone so far in just 36 hours that they had calculated the cost of implementation per restaurant and what it would cost for Fazer to place it in all of their restaurants. Definitely a step you do not usually see done in such a short time.

The Corporate Learnings

Knowing this was the first time ever Fazer did anything like this, I asked Simon Panelius, Vice President Operational Development at Fazer Food Services, to comment on the hackathon experience, on their expectations and the outcome, plus on the possible interaction with the startup world in the future.

“Before the event I did not know what a Hackathon is, now I know what it can be. It was a very positive experience, the feeling of concentrated innovation was great. Being a mentor made it possible to see how the creative process progressed in the different teams, the frustrations and the joy when they had crystallised their idea. We need somehow to bring elements of this to our daily work.”

Panelius adds that digitalization has been high on the agenda in Fazer, and the hackathon was a way for them to explore new ways of developing digital offering.

“Guest feedback and dialog, really understanding what our guests need and want, is crucial for us. We wanted to use this event to see if and how digitalization could help us in this area. When thinking about solutions to familiar problems, you easily get stuck in your own ways of thinking. In this event we wanted to get a different point of view, and new, fresh angles on how to solve our problems.”

“We learned a lot about the dynamics of such an event, and also about all the preparation work needed to make it a success. The teams did a great job, and I think every team had some new angles on our challenge. I was especially happy that in only two days, some of the solutions were concrete and tested, to a level that we actually with only minor effort could start piloting the ideas in real restaurants.”

“We already have an idea of organising a “Foodathon” where we would apply the same concept, not to digital solutions, but real food based on new and innovative ingredients.”

On the other hand, Tieto has already three internal startups of their own and they have been actively seeking cooperation with the startup world, tells Mikko Leinonen, the Head of Customer Experience Management.

“In CEM we are constantly looking for new ways of inspiring our colleagues and clients. We have found out that Hackathons are really a great way to rapidly ideate, prototype and rapidly validate ideas, before packaging them into concepts, and to learn from each other and best experts in the field. The idea of Customer Experience Hackathons (CXHack) originally came from the CEM team inside, and soon we realized that there is more and more interest on those from our customers.”

“We are organizing a full day innovation workshop with Elo, related to wellbeing at work. We have five startups taking part in it and providing input: Fjuul, Wellmo, Fingertip, Emotion tracker and Heimo. We’re also soon announcing the next CXHack, which will bring superb opportunity for tech startups to expand their boundaries.”

The Conclusion

The big ones are awake and more and more aware of the opportunity that startups and the startup way of doing offers. Big ones being big ones means that they also have the necessary capacity to make something happen, implement it in their processes or perhaps offer it to their existing customers. So the opportunity for startups is huge.

The small ones often worry about big ones stealing their ideas and products, so it is very important that the corporations are open and honest about the ownership of results of any hackathon or other similar event. The teams should own the result of their work, and the corporation should be there to support and let the team grow independently, but with a strategic guidance, so that big one will be the first customer for the new startup born. That’s what startups need.

PS. The Drone Guy also got a ticket to Arctic15 as a bonus prize for the craziest idea.

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