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calendar    Dec 11, 2023

Tale of Two Pilot (Deployments)

What you are about to read are two true accounts of pilots Render and our team have deployed. Both of the pilots were conducted within large companies - one a successful pilot and the other not so much. 

At Render, we believe in companies that can be additive to our economy and not simply extracting from it. We focus and specialize in working with companies that are additive to our regional, national and global economy. Our work includes everyone from large national healthcare organizations, to utility companies, middle-market companies, large non-profits and even top Universities. Part of this work is done through pilot implementation - or connecting these top organizations with startup solutions that solve real world problems within large organizations that - driven by the startup’s solution - have specific outcomes and outsized return on investment with these startups’ solutions. 

What you are about to read are two true accounts of pilots Render and our team have deployed. Both of the pilots were conducted within large companies - one a successful pilot and the other not so much. 

But first an introduction, as a multi-time founder who has both “bootstrapped” (meaning self-funded) and has been “venture-backed” (meaning used external institutional venture capital or high net worth capital), and has worked with large governments to fortune 500 clients in this capacity.

Because of my first life in the Army looking for roadside bombs, Render is now a certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business. We found some, some of the bombs found us - but we brought all our men and women back home safe and opened up economic pathways for local Afghani’s to get their goods to market! In addition to being a certified service-disabled veteran-owned small business, Render is also a certified B Corp certified, meaning we are committed to certain business, sustainability, and operational standards and are verified by B Labs to meet these qualifications. Being B corp certified and a certified service-disabled veteran-owned company does not mean we exclusively focus on serving corporations, middle market companies and large nonprofits that are ESG-focused (ESG stands for Environmental, Social and Governance) but rather we are both internally and externally accountable for good business practices and driving impact through innovation.

Pilot 1

A startup presented a pilot opportunity for a Fortune 50 which seemingly aligned with both companies. After 6 months worth of conversations with the corporations procurement (to get a vendor number), the chief information security officer which is a senior-level executive who oversees an organization's information, cyber, and technology security, Information Technology group, and legal the startup were awarded a $15,000 pilot with the Fortune 50 company.

Mission accomplished, right? A freshly funded venture-backed startup was awarded a $15,000 pilot! The startup can now add this corporation's logo to their portfolio of customers to further help fundraising efforts and other customer sales initiatives. However this was not the happily ever after the pilot startup had in mind. The $15,000 contract ended with the corporation not wanting to move forward with a deeper implementation, which happens at least a third of the time from our experience and still provides an incredible opportunity to the startups along with measured learnings from for the corporate conducting the pilot. However, in addition to not closing this contract, this pilot ultimately cost the startup almost $85,000 in legal fees to gain the $15,000, putting the startup behind 6 months in development, and out of cash to pursue other clients that would have been a better fit. 

What’s the major takeaway from pilot deployment one? Mostly, this could have all been avoided. The unnecessary timeline for implementation, legal fees and 6 months worth of who knows how much “internal” cost the corporation spent to line up all of their internal teams and onboard a vendor that ended up not working out. Failed deployments such as this example are the reason we founded Render, to help avoid needless missteps for both the organization and the startup along the way to deployment. 

Pilot 2

Our second example was programmed by our awesome team at Render, and was ultimately more efficiently and effectively executed and overall more aligned with the needs, wants and desires of all stakeholders involved.

In this scenario, our team at Render worked with a corporation in the hopes of more intimately understanding their needs. This was one of the first times we worked with this client so we ran them through our full innovation framework and process. Below is a snapshot of one of our original frameworks which is even more robust today. 


Using the above framework we identified a deep operational need that this corporation had and decided on the buy/partner path to solve this problem. In this example, Render acquired, what has become typical in these situations, where Render has a MSA or Master Services Agreement in place.

Render had established this MSA with this large corporation and understood their needs. In this specific instance, it was all around shipping address standardization and validation of records. For this our team at Render reached out to several venture-backed startups in our network as well as some of our fellow syndicate investors at Render Capital, our investment arm, and asked if there was someone in their portfolio that could meet these needs.

 I had a hunch based on my time in San Francisco that startups were doing this work for companies like FedEx, Netflix, Nasa, Chase Bank and others that would be a fit. Prior to us reaching out to this startup on the West Coast, the corporation's current strategy was to employ developers who were hand-jamming “if/then” statements and building their own internal code and rules to standardize addresses. Render approached a potential startup match, however they had concerns. This startup operates on the mainframe and they are Application Programming Interface driven. In the context of APIs, the word Application refers to any software with a distinct function. In a brief explanation, Interface can be thought of as a contract of service between two applications. This contract defines how the two communicate with each other using requests and responses. Even with this valid concern, our team at Render knew we still had a few ideas to get this pilot in place. The startup was hesitant to work with this large corporation with the amount of time and energy it would have taken for the relatively small pilot amount of dollars to develop a more custom solution just to see if it might work.

Because of the MSA we had in place the Render team were able to build Middleware (Middleware is software that provides common services and capabilities to applications outside of what's offered by the operating system) for the corporations mainframe to interact with the API driven startups protocols. Because of the MSA and Render putting the startup as a subcontractor under our vendor our team at Render had already gone through the startup did not have to go through this process and perhaps more if not as equally valuable the corporation did not have to spend another 6-9 months vetting this startup internally in order to launch a pilot in a safe sandbox based environment. 

At the end of the day, the implementation and pilot period for the solution worked fantastically which then allowed the vendor to walk in the front door with an internal champion, middleware already built and proven and at that point “owned” by the corporation since Render built it on contract with the corporate. Next the startup would no longer have to operate under Render’s MSA and instead could get their own vendor ID, CISO validation, legal validation etc to work more intimately across the organization. We were later told this initial six-figure implementation resulted in over $10M worth of cost savings and program implementation efficiencies and the corporation and startup still work together to this day almost 3 years after our initial pilot. 

This second use case is exactly how and why we work with startups in the way we do and why our team at Render operates differently than many of the other consulting groups, we offer innovative solutions for all our clients challenges no matter how big or small. This not only helps us offer the most effective solutions but also speeds up efficiency and effectiveness of the solutions that we help implement in an environment that is often complex and bureaucratic, creating a win-win for all the stakeholders. In the end saving time, money and effort driving impact through innovation. 

Do you need help implementing a pilot?

Shoot me an email directly at and make sure to check out some of our case studies

Render is an innovation studio powered by high-growth investors. We work with corporate partners to help them think like investors and unlock new ideas to solve their most challenging problems. As a Certified B Corp and Public Benefit Corporation, we default to impact while working towards human-centered solutions. We work together, for good.

Managing Director

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