When you turned in your senior project in college, was any of it actually used in the real world? At the University of California, Berkeley’s Garwood Center for Corporate Innovation, students are building not only their own futures, but that of Fortune 100 companies and of the people of India.
Solomon Darwin, director of the Center, works with those Fortune 100 companies to seed his students with real-world enterprise problems. Recruiting kids from UC Berkeley’s engineering, computer science and business schools, he forms teams of students that work to solve the problems of modern day business.
“These are legacy companies,” he said. “After they’ve become elephants, then dinosaurs, their business models don’t work anymore. They die unless they look for new business models and new ways of accelerating growth. Otherwise they’ll die like Polaroid, Kodak or Blockbuster. When you don’t adapt to the changing technology, you die.
“The good thing about large companies is they have a lot of money; they can make the investments. But they’re not very comfortable with taking risks, while a young startup has nothing to lose, and they can try all kinds of things. That’s what my Center does.”
Often, Darwin’s students work to find new ways for businesses to monetize their services and products. This is particularly true when Darwin is working with students on projects for India.
“I took students to India,” he said. “We learned how IBM, GE, Xerox and SAP are able to make money in India. These are companies whose margins are big, but how do you make money when the margins are somewhat abysmal?”
Between the two classes Darwin teaches, both are about India at present. The first is focused on business models for existing companies and products, and on the potential of smart cities in India.