Skandalaris Center

The background image for the website. It is a multi colored mosaic.

Entrepreneurship Through Corporate Innovation

Sydney Everett (Staff)
September 20, 2019

Is there innovation in the corporate world? Definitely yes! On September 19, 2019, the Skandalaris Center hosted an  Innovation Conversation as part of Professor Doug Villhard’s Entrepreneurial Platform Seminar that explored the entrepreneurial and innovative opportunities to those working for large corporations.

WashU alums Deborah Barta, Senior Vice President of Innovation & Startup Engagement at Mastercard, and Valerie Toothman, Vice President of Brand & Beverage Marketing at  Drinkworks, joined Doug Villhard for this conversation.

“Entrepreneurship includes corporate innovation.” – Doug Villhard

Throughout the conversation Deb and Val both emphasized the importance of innovation for their companies. Mastercard, for example, makes investments in to understand the latest innovations and trends. This includes a program that recruits later stage startups  and provides resources to help them scale. For Anheuser-Busch, and Drinkworks specifically, “everyone’s job is innovation”. In the beverage industry the key to innovation is understanding where the market is going and what market exists for a product.

To illustrate the value of innovation within the corporate environment Deb and Val brought the latest innovations from Mastercard and Drinkworks. Deb walked the audience through Mastercard’s new proof of provenance system. This program uses blockchain technology to track materials from origin to consumption. Val displayed the Drinkworks in-home bar drink maker and described how the product is the result of innovation and partnerships between AB and Keurig.

After the product demonstrations audience members were invited to ask questions. One question focused on what Deb and Val look for as they recruit new team members. Deb places an emphasis on recruiting people who are super passionate, understand how product comes to market, and understand what it means to be intrapreneurial and entrepreneurial. Val seeks people who are strategic thinkers, want to solve problems, and are innately curious.

The conversation ended with Deb and Val sharing parting words and advice to with the audience, which was mostly comprised of first-year MBA students. Deb encouraged the audience to “take new challenges, stretch your brain, and don’t obsess about getting it right.” Val stressed the importance “trying to find your passion” and for the students especially, “take the time to learn and try, challenge yourself, and be bold.”

The event ended with a reception where everyone 21 or older sampled the new Drinkworks product and networked with one another.