Our third BBC Worldwide Labs programme recently came to an end with a record number and some interesting partnerships secured in the process. I believe one element of the increased success in securing partnerships with divisions across the business has been our ability to gain greater understanding of the areas across the business we need external expertise in, and our ability to attract up and coming digital companies keen to work with BBC Worldwide. We’ve been encouraged by the quicker response times from areas across the business this year with a seemingly greater appetite to engage with the programme and seek out opportunities with the startups. I wanted to highlight the key deals from the latest programme in this post and offer some insight as to the ways in which we’re looking to further expand the programme over the coming year.  

Talking trials

No more than two months into the programme and we signed our first partnership (in record time) with facial coding startup Crowdemotion. The BBC Worldwide Insight’s team immediately saw how the neuroscience based technology could enhance their audience research and jumped at the chance to launch a pilot in the UK. The pilot was successful and we have continued to use the technology as part of our research panels in Russia and Australia. It's great to see such a unique study carried out with such ambition and on an international scale.

Startups business idea unique

Success was also found with ad-tech company Rezonence. The growing pressure for media companies to find ways of monetising online content is something teams across BBC Worldwide are keen to crack and so we were delighted to see the topgear.com team open to trying the startup’s freewall ad format where audiences unlock content through engaging with an ad. After some successful Top Gear branded trials we agreed to bring in external ad spend, which we’re looking to launch in the next couple of months - a great achievement in an area of the business that can be cautious to partnering with early stage tech.

We’re currently in the final stages of securing a partnership between BBC Earth, one of our three new genre brands, and UGC video startup Seenit. The startup, which allows fans to record and upload video for their favourite brand, attracted a lot of attention across the business. However, having explored a number of opportunities, we saw a real opportunity with BBC Earth. We’ll be announcing our further details on this partnership shortly. 

Doesn't always work

We also carried out a trial with Verticly, using their technology to help promote competitions and sales via our ecommerce site, BBC Shop. Whilst these trials didn’t materialise into a formal deal, great relationships were formed and we will continue to have conversations with Verticly as we progress on our journey to drive more sales from our own platforms.

In addition to the original startups that we recruited in April 2014, we also partnered with mobile payments company, Ensygnia, through our newly launched ‘Startup In Residence’ programme. Ensygnia’s one scan technology piqued the interest of our ecommerce team and we have since signed a partnership to help deliver next generation payment experiences across a number of BBC Worldwide’s direct to consumer propositions.

For me, the hardest part of running the programme is trying to secure partnerships with all of the companies that we take on. It’s not for lack of enthusiasm either but instead it's usually a result of poor timings and busy agendas, which mean that collaborations do not always come to fruition.

This will be a challenge that many people running similar programmes will be familiar with, but by continuing to grow our abilities to identify opportunities and making introductions across our organisations, as well as continuing to drive a more risk adverse, entrepreneurial culture through the business, we will overcome this hurdle.

Looking ahead

Here at BBC Worldwide Labs we’ve decided to launch a number of internal staff initiatives this year, that we hope will go some way to overcoming this challenge. The initiatives are aimed at empowering people across BBC Worldwide to take greater responsibility for the programme at all levels and to provide the opportunity to buddy up with one of the startups in a bid to learn more about what it takes to be part of a fledgling company and to share some of their own expertise. We believe these new elements to the programme will further enhance it and help us to build on the successes to date!

We will shortly be opening our applications for our 2015 programme so to finish I thought I’d give you a flavour of what we’re looking for this year.

Around advertising, we’re looking to enhance viewability and native advertising solutions especially on mobile. Interesting interactive content formats, content distribution platforms and digital video solutions are also hot topics for us. As with all organisations now, data for us is incredibly important so ideas around how we manage and visualise that will be evaluated with great interest. If you’re interested in being part of this year’s programme get in touch!