\u201cStartup\u201d means risk. It prescribes small teams of individuals committed to an idea to make the world a better place\u2026or to make themselves a little richer. Why not both? Regardless, new business ventures work under pressure to research, refine, and deliver an idea to the market. The alternative is shuttering for good.\n\nBut despite the high risk\/reward framework, these Victory-or-Bust ventures don\u2019t have the market cornered on agility and innovation.\n\nWith names like Innovation Kitchen, Lab126, The Design Lab, and the eponymous Skunk Works, big companies like Nike, Amazon, Apple, and Lockheed Martin have successfully combined small teams of people at the top of their technical game with large company resources to bring ground-breaking products to market.Cisco sets aside space for an innovative team operating with a startup mindset. More than an experimental group, they hold themselves accountable the same way any startup should. When their efforts succeed, the impact of their innovations is transformative for the industry and customers.\n\nCisco ET&I: Cisco\u2019s Big Bets for the Future\n\nSeveral years ago, Cisco founded the Emerging Technologies and Incubation Group (ET&I), charging them with creating and advancing new products and technologies that earn Cisco\u2019s Executive Leadership team backing. This unique division focuses on new solutions, new markets, and innovative problem-solving.\n\nUsing rapid ideation, agile methodologies, incubation, and validation, the group employs startup thinking with a venture capital (VC) backing model, which brings together committed, diverse teams of experts at the top of their technical fields. Those teams partner with universities, customers, and the Cisco Design Partner Program to deliver best-in-class research, next-generation solutions and software, plus customer co-innovation.\n\nCatalyzing the Startup Mindset\n\nIn the startup space, ideas thrive or fail. Goals must be met, investors must be satisfied, and product adoption must grow exponentially. Miss a deadline? You might find yourself shuttering the company. The inherent speed and urgency that accompanies working with those stakes can be crushed by slow-moving parts inside large enterprises.\n\nCisco embraces the startup model by granting ET&I the freedom to work without complex multi-tiered oversight while keeping the stakes high.\n\nLike any startup, delivering on expectations is job one. The group sets milestone-based targets akin to Series A, B, and C funding. The team operates under an Incubation Board of Directors who take the part of investors, providing a funding perspective and leveraging their business expertise to accelerate new ventures. That Board retains the ability to defund projects that aren\u2019t working, aren\u2019t moving fast enough, or aren\u2019t maintaining their original merit.\n\nInside-Startup Success: Understanding the Venture Capitalist Mindset\n\nCompetition for funding is tight, and embracing the traits that make or break a company in the eyes of a venture capitalist can improve the chances of success. Investors in 2023 aren\u2019t convinced by ideas alone\u2014they want to see they\u2019re working with organizations that are built to bring those ideas to market.\n\nCommon Red Flags for VCs:\n\nCisco\u2019s ET&I group takes these lessons to heart when building new market incubations: Get executive buy-in, identify a clear market need, bring in the right teams, and commit to a time-bound plan to achieve product-market fit.\n\nLeveraging Partnerships to Identify Opportunities\n\nStartups are about solving problems. Successful startups set out to thoroughly understand a problem space. They think critically about how innovation and technology can solve challenges and unanswered difficulties globally.\n\nA common barrier to understanding those problems is the innovation team's lack of insight, lack of understanding of customers\u2019 pain points, and lack of diversity. Without factoring in how other people, cultures, employees, or even countries think about an issue, startups can rush toward uninformed ideas that won\u2019t survive in the market.\n\nET&I partners with more than 20 universities to explore the full scope of problems ranging from Generative and Responsible AI to quantum security and quantum networks. In 2022, the Cisco Research team within ET&I funded more than 51 research projects, completed 69 publications, issued, and filed 33 patents, and hosted an AI Summit last August. Active research drives active results.\n\nIt is well understood that solving some of the world\u2019s most complex problems requires a deep understanding of what customers\u2019 pain points and challenges are. ET&I relies heavily on customer listening, insights from VC communities, and academic research to build empathy with the practitioner, accelerating Proof of Value, Time to Value, and therefore driving rapid product adoption. Leveraging this innovation ecosystem gives ET&I both a competitive edge at the forefront of new technological advancements while shaping its roadmap of its future in cloud-native spaces. It\u2019s a win-win situation.\n\nInvesting in Bleeding-Edge Tech\n\nFor tech companies seeking to find an edge in an already hypercompetitive market, finding that competitive advantage is what separates the winners from the laggards.\n\nIn addition to researching emerging technologies, one area Cisco ET&I set themselves to create a bleeding-edge solution is cloud-native application security products. By following a startup model and engaging deeply with early adopters, they created Panoptica\u2014Cisco\u2019s Cloud Application Security product that enables businesses to more securely adopt modern application architectures demanded by the market.\n\nCompanies are frequently either reluctant or skeptical to immediately jump into nascent technologies such as application security that have yet to prove their viability in the market. However, times have shown that companies willing to invest in disruptive innovations are more likely to survive during times of digital transformation. Those who rise to the occasion benefit from building highly scalable, resilient, and fast innovative solutions. Finally, companies can both attract and retain top talent while also staying ahead of their competition.\n\nEmbracing an Updated Startup Culture\n\nThe world grows more interconnected every day, and businesses increasingly understand that a deeper idea pool comes from a greater diversity of employees. But attracting great talent can be challenging if your company is hanging on to monolithic working models. New visionaries have evolved workplace expectations.\n\nTo foster a creative mindset, it\u2019s essential to enable team members to take time away from work to engage in activities that inspire and energize. A growing number of credible studies show that work-life balance is solidly linked to productivity and job satisfaction. Keeping the best talent requires creating standards in a company culture that recognizes that every team member has a life outside the workplace.\n\nBy embracing outside activities, providing flexible working hours, and focusing on productivity over facetime, companies looking to foster innovation free their teams to move forward and discover world-changing technologies.\n\nBy embracing a state-of-the-art hybrid environment that provides flexible hours, remote work, and an inclusive culture, teams can give their best. This environment encourages teams to focus on Horizon 3 ideas and celebrate both successes and failures. This startup culture also fosters the concept of \u201cflash teams\u201d where individuals and skills come together and work on projects like a movie and then disband when the production is completed. Not to mention that Cisco is adamant about powering an inclusive future for all.\n\nThere\u2019s much to get right (and wrong) in embracing and developing a startup mentality. The model of a few committed individuals spending weeks of sleepless nights to achieve a goal isn\u2019t gone, but the market understands those examples aren\u2019t sustainable. \n\nTo keep renewing, to keep creating, and to keep pushing boundaries, Cisco ET&I is creating a new sustainable model for delivering innovation.\n\nConsider checking out more information about ET&I today.\n\nCheck out the latest Cisco Research findings and gain a competitive edge.\n\nLearn more about Panoptica Simplified Cloud-Native Application Security.