Intrapreneurship 101: success stories

In an era where innovation and startups are becoming synonymous with each other, larger companies with defined structures and lower risk-taking abilities are trying to break the norm. Intrapreneurship is becoming an increasingly popular method that corporations use to ensure that innovation is taking place constantly even within defined structures of operations.

This blog post presents some examples of intrapreneurship efforts within huge companies that led to products that are now household names:


  1. Gmail: Google has a groundbreaking policy that allows employees to work on personal projects for 20% of their workday. Giving employees 1 hour a day for passions and interests led to a product that few can live without – Gmail! What started as a small experiment which started in 1999 by Google’s 23rd employee, and doubted by many, led to the world’s top email service with 1.5 billion active global users and 147 billion USD in revenue in 2020.


  1. Vimeo: An online video streaming platform, Vimeo was a smaller version of YouTube which attracted around 100 million users per month. However, when streaming services such as Netflix and Amazon Prime entered the market, Vimeo started experiencing a decline in users, and consequently revenue. The Marketing Director during that period strategized a complete overhaul of the service which can be classified as a great example of intrapreneurship; Vimeo was redeveloped as a content creation service which, in 2020, reported a sales growth of 54%.


  1. Google Earth Outreach: Social problems require innovative solutions, and Google’s Rebecca Moore is an inspiring example of how technology and intrapreneurship can meld together to offer innovative solutions to pressing problems. Google Earth Outreach is a service that helps government entities, non-profits, and local communities to apply Google’s mapping tools in areas such as environmental conservation, sustainability and human rights. As an example, Google recently partnered with a Brazilion NGO to provide satellite images of the Amazon rainforest to understand tree density – now, when a tree falls in the area covered by satellites, environment activists get notified and can investigate the cause.


  1. Shutterstock: One of the world’s most popular websites for royalty free images, Shutterstock has a policy of hosting regular hackathons that allow employees to conceptualize and implement innovative ideas that can improve the functionality of the platform. Integrating such activities can help companies leverage the innovative capacities of their employees and ensure a constant stream of fresh ideas.


  1. Sony: Tinkering is an important and underrated practical application of innovation, and Sony’s path towards launching PlayStation, the world’s most popular gaming console, is an apt example of how it works. Ken Kutaragi, a junior Sony employee, tinkered with his daughter’s Nintendo for hours to make it more user friendly. Many people in the company found switching to gaming unprofitable, but a senior executive found value in the product and PlayStation was born, and has taken over the gaming industry, ever since.

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