Unilever is hoping to tap into the ideas of Ireland’s brightest young minds after tying up a joint venture deal with Dublin start-up hub Dogpatch Labs.

The partnership, via the FMCG giant’s start-up collaboration platform Unilever Foundry, aims to provide a path for Irish tech companies to explore business ideas with the Dutch-British group, which owns food brands include Hellmann’s, Knorr and Marmite.

The new venture is not confined to food but Unilever believes its brands are likely to benefit from innovations in the areas being researched: enterprise tech, consumer and market intelligence, sustainability and social entrepreneurs and marketing, adtech and ecommerce.

The venture will be the entry-point for tech innovative companies seeking to connect with Unilever. Irish start-ups will have the opportunity to scale globally using Unilever Foundry’s “Pitch-Pilot-Partner” approach, hopefully cutting the time it takes to get a new initiative to market. 

Start-ups will be invited to respond to a related business challenge with the opportunity to pilot their technology with a Unilever brand, which if successful, could be rolled out across Unilever’s portfolio.

To date, Unilever Foundry has launched more than 100 pilots with start-ups and Unilever brands.
One recent success is with San Francisco-based Discuss.io, a small start-up with customers in the bay area of the US city. After receiving mentorship from Unilever Foundry, it developed its proposition to deliver against Unilever’s challenges within the area of marketing intelligence. It has now been scaled across the organisation in more than 20 countries and in 14 languages.

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Unilever Foundry’s expansion to Ireland follows the launch earlier this year of LEVEL3, a co-working space in Singapore in partnership with Padang & Co.

Jonathan Hammond, the head of Unilever Foundry, said: “Unilever Foundry provides a single entry point for start-ups seeking to partner with Unilever, enabling the company’s brands and functions to experiment and pilot new technologies effectively. Dogpatch Labs is a physical manifestation of this ethos and gives Unilever access to a growing European start-up community.”

Nick Johnson, ‎the managing director of Unilever’s Irish business, added: “Working with Irish start-ups such as Laundrie [an on-demand cleaning service app] or BuyMie [a same-day grocery delivery business] is helping us address a growing imperative to connect with consumers in more meaningful ways, to leverage data and to embed our products in new app enabled services.”
Patrick Walsh, managing director of Dogpatch Labs, said: “As we evolve as a start-up hub and platform for innovation, we have chosen to focus our efforts on fostering key industries where we see growth prospects. There is big opportunity in the FMCG space and Unilever is a natural partner for us to foster start-ups and help drive innovation and progress in the industry.”

This is Dogpatch Labs’ first venture with a company working in the food industry. Its existing partnerships are with Google and Ulster Bank.