Keen on becoming an intrapreneur at your company? Here are some tips

3 min read
29 Jan 2019

ntrapreneurs have the potential to transform businesses, according to Soraya Ferahtia, a coach at Airbus BizLab’s acceleration program in Madrid. Here is the advice Soraya has for innovative types who are keen on launching startups at the established organizations where they work.

While the risk an entrepreneur takes is very different compared to that of an intrapreneur – someone who launches a startup within a corporation – the two have one thing in common.

“They’re similar in that they’re both doers,” says Soraya Ferahtia who has been both an intrapreneur and entrepreneur herself.

Airbus Bizlab is a global aerospace accelerator, focused on speeding up the creation of businesses for startups, entrepreneurs and Airbus intrapreneurs. With locations in Toulouse (France), Hamburg (Germany) and Bangalore (India), Airbus Bizlab opened its newest campus in Madrid in July 2018.

With experience in innovation, consulting and project management, Soraya has been coaching startups and intrapreneurs on a daily basis for several years. In addition to conducting training sessions and workshops, she seeks out local external experts and internal experts to support participants within Airbus BizLab’s six-month acceleration program.

Having learned a thing or two about hacking the big corporations, Soraya has noticed that while established companies say they support intrapreneurship, they aren’t creating the safe spaces necessary for their employees to thrive in this area.

This is despite the fact that there are many innovative, driven people out there who want to develop new ideas within their companies.

(L) Soraya Ferahtia. Photo: Startup Guide (R) The city of Madrid. Photo: Unsplash/lucas ricci

According to Soraya, the lack of an environment that caters to a startup mentality has meant that intrapreneurs are not taking the risks they should be.

“Intrapreneurs want to do projects they're passionate about that take business interests into consideration,” she says, “but if you don’t give them independence, time, and most importantly, the authorization to fail, you won't be able to have real intrapreneurs.”

Well aware of this issue, all four of Airbus BizLab’s global locations welcome internal employees and external entrepreneurs to apply for their program. So long as the projects are applicable to the aerospace industry (for example, focused on blockchain, AI or electrification), they are acceptable.

What’s important to know when going into the program, Soraya emphasizes, is that “in the end, if it doesn’t work, it’s not going to be bad for your career.”

To start influencing change, entrepreneurial types should seek out like-minded people at the companies where they work, Soraya suggests.

This is because big corporations can sometimes make people feel isolated. It’s easy to feel like there aren’t others out there who are also thinking outside the box or wanting to shake things up and bring about change with their ideas, but this couldn’t be farther from the truth.

“If you find your tribe, you’ll thrive,” Soraya says. In order to do this though, you’ll need to talk openly about your ideas as well as act on them.

To start influencing change, entrepreneurial types should seek out like-minded people at the companies where they work.

Another piece of advice Soraya has for aspiring intrapreneurs is to quit thinking that money is the answer; she’s seen many entrepreneurs get things done and go far with very little money.

“Being an intrapreneur means doing a lot on few resources. It’s quite surprising to hear from the intrapreneurs I coach that they need $500,000,” Soraya says. After all, it’s not the money that will transform your business.

“What will transform your business is your courage, determination and the trust you have from your management and the people around you.”

Building trust with your manager is another key component to potentially reaching intrapreneurial success.

“It's usually easy to convince top management that intrapreneurship is important, but with middle management, it can be really difficult as they have tough operational objectives,” she says. “This is why the trust your superior has in you is valuable, and it’s worthwhile to invest the time needed to properly establish it.”

While the program in Madrid was inaugurated just recently, other Airbus BizLab campuses have already had success stories. An Airbus intrapreneur launched WeLoveAero at the campus in Toulouse, France, last year.

WeLoveAero uses a community platform to showcase the global air-show industry, and it’s already signed several high-profile partnerships. The concept has also gained traction with the military community in the US.

More info on the startup scene in Madrid can be found in our Startup Guide Madrid guidebook.

Main photo of Pedro Sanchez (Airbus Bizlab platform leader) and Soraya Ferahtia in Madrid by Startup Guide