We sat down with Jamie Qiu, founder and lead of EY’s Startup Challenge programme, and discussed how collaboration between startups and large corporates can be mutually beneficial. Check out the video and read the article below to find out more.

EY Startup Challenge: Applications of blockchain tech

At EY we experimented with something. We called it the EY Startup Challenge. We figured we could make real-life uses and applications of key emerging technologies a reality if we brought together large companies and small startups.

We thought we might be able to help large corporations learn more about emerging technologies that could improve their business and operations. We thought we might also be able to help startups and entrepreneurs hone their product or service offering and get real customer traction.

This year

A third EY Startup Challenge just concluded in London. This six-week programme focused on exploring how blockchain technology could be applied to address business challenges in digital rights management (DRM) and energy trading.

Six startups took part – Tallysticks, JAAK, Blockverify, BTL Group Ltd, BitFury Group and Adjoint Inc – and they worked with large corporations from the energy and media industries, plus EY, and developed prototype products.

The outcomes

There are a number of tests and pilot projects being set up as a result of the programme.

The significance of this lies in the fact that developing pilots of technologies as emerging and ‘hyped’ as blockchain isn’t always easy, and so pilots tend to indicate the successful alignment of a few key things.

Firstly, understanding of the technology in question and its relevance. Secondly, understanding of specific use-cases, and the magnitude of the impact within the chosen topic area. Thirdly, understanding of how to test, what to practically do, how to measure the benefits and how to commercially set up for success.

The alignment of these things is often tricky. An open innovation viewpoint would say: “Let the tech startups understand the technology, its relevance and how relevant it could be”. It might take a while to help them do that for a large corporate as they would have to examine a variety of use-cases and understand the nuances of it, but it’s absolutely crucial. Once you’ve collectively agreed and understood, and prototypes have been created to make your hypotheses that bit more tangible, a sensible action plan of how to test it and measure the predicted benefits is key.

The second type of outcome concerns what this means for both the startups and the corporates. If you step into the shoes of the startup, the feedback we have received is that the alignment of points one, two and three effectively equates to end-to-end acceleration of business development and client acquisition.

Conversely, step into the shoes of the corporate and the feedback has been about rapid education and acceleration of business-relevant tech solutions. Being able to cut through the hype and noise surrounding something like blockchain and to zero in on exactly why and how it could be a preferred solution for very real pain points is important.

The third type of outcome is about the advancement of blockchain technology itself. Through tangible collaborations between organisations – which is ultimately about how you can use technology to fix problems, drive efficiencies, reduce costs and manage risk – we are doing our bit to demystify and make this technology more relatable, graspable and less scary.


There will be more refinement and development, and no doubt the solutions will evolve. But what I really want to reflect on is more human. As more entrepreneurs emerge in a changing world, investing so much time, effort and capital into new ventures and the advancement of new technology, I feel proud that open innovation initiatives can help them to not only champion and proliferate the technologies, but more importantly to find success and satisfaction. It all seems to be all about technology and business, but what I take most pride in is the impact on the entrepreneurs and founders at the heart of it all.

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