Follow Datanami:
October 17, 2013

Coca-Cola Catching the Big Data Competition Wave

Isaac Lopez

Having Coca-Cola as a first customer is a start-up’s dream come true. The soft drink giant is offering this possibility with a new contest that will put three years of supply chain data in the hands of participants.

The new contest is dubbed “Firehose,” and is being put on in partnership by Coca-Cola Amatil (CCA), Coca-Cola Accelerator Sydney, and Pollenizer, an Australian-based start-up incubator. The competition, taking place on-location in Sydney over two weekends in November, will put three years of supply chain data containing over 150,000,000 records (approximately 1TB of data) from into start-up contestants’ hands.

The goal? Build a start-up business with a service that can be offered to Coca-Cola Amatil, a Coca-Cola bottler that services the Asia-Pacific region, including Australia, New Zealand, Indonesia, Papua New Guinea, Fiji, and Samoa. “Bruce Herbert is director of supply chain for Coca-Cola Amatil in Australia,” says the banner on the official Firehose contest site. “This is your chance to pitch him as a customer.”

The contest is part of a new effort that Coca-Cola has started to roll out this year trying to foster (and perhaps bottle for themselves) the modern start-up spirit. “Many experts believe this perfect storm of entrepreneurial stimuli is creating the next industrial revolution. Companies that adapt fast enough can revolutionize their industries and uncover new growth opportunities in other industries,” wrote David Butler, Coca-Cola’s VP of innovation in an article earlier this year. “Coca-Cola wants to be one of those companies. And being part of this revolution means learning from and collaborating with others.”

In a later article, Butler explained more about Coca-Cola’s vision for fostering what they see as a new era for business – from the startup to the scaleup. “It’s estimated that about 50 million new businesses were started globally last year,” he wrote. “Most of them failed. Why? Because starting up is easier than ever. But scaling isn’t.”

“The weird thing is that big, established companies know how to scale, but don’t know how to start,” he continues. “At Coke, we think the big idea, or the next wave of innovation, will be all about building scaleups. We believe if we can get the starters of the world to build with the scalers of the world, then we’ll see a much larger percentage of startups move to scaleups. We believe that we all win when startups move to scaleups.”

This, says Butler, is the genesis of Coca-Cola’s Accelerator Program, which rather than focusing on simply investing, aims at a collaborative relationship. “We’re focused on co-designing, collaborating and building with startups, and bringing our ability to scale and our amazing assets together to unlock new ways to create value on a global basis.”

But wait a minute – isn’t this just a cynical ploy for Coca-Cola to profit from free labor from developers, as was suggested by Craig Stump (@bluesix) on Twitter. A fair question, says Coca-Cola, acknowledging that they’ve got some work to do on this front. The company insists that this is an opportunity for participants to network, and learn about tools such as SAP HANA, as well as more about the startup process and what comes next. “Hackathons can struggle to have next steps to bring the business to life,” the company writes on the Firehose competition site. “Firehose has next steps that can support building a business and finding a great first customer. Our solution: provide resources and cash to take the best business forward to a more resolved state and pitch to Coca-Cola and other potential customers.”

The company says that the teams that create the projects will own 100% of the intellectual property, and will have the opportunity to make a separate commercial arrangement with Coca-Cola (or any other entity) before benefitting on the work done during the contest.

Aside from the opportunity to pitch Coca-Cola, the first prize winner will receive $3,000 cash, as well as 3 months in the Pollenizer incubator where they will receive lean startup training and prepare for the big pitch.

Related items:

Datastax Gives Startups Free Production Cassandra DB 

KuroBase Offering Couchbase in the Cloud 

Attention to Small Details a Key to Big Data Success