Strategic Innovation partnership with Launch Mobility

November 04, 2020

This week we met with Jason Zahorik, Group Manager of KINTO Share at Toyota Financial Services (TFS) and Paul Hirsch, Founder and CEO of Launch Mobility (LM), Inc. Their partnership began when the TFS Strategic Innovation team was exploring mobility solutions and Paul was doing the same as an up and coming start up. Paul, having worked for Toyota Motor Sales previously, understood the territory in which Jason was navigating which contributed to their successful collaboration.

Tell us little bit about the Strategic Innovation (SI) team and your role in it?

Jason (TFS): Strategic Innovation (SI) is a small cross functional team dedicated to the future of mobility and fintech. I was the lead for several early initiatives including projects/partnerships with Uber and Getaround.

Paul (LM): We started working with the SI team when it first started running in-market pilot tests in the mobility space. Up until that time, mobility partnerships had been initiated in Toyota, Japan and SI had started executing on those relationships. Launch Mobility’s Animo [carshare] pilot was the first project that was fully executed within the SI team, from concept to launch.

How do you think the SI Team is unique within a big corporation?

Jason (TFS): Strategic Innovation is in an interesting position within TFS, as a small startup within a big corporation. The team has access to the C-Suite, focuses on speed of delivery and has leadership support for quick escalation. The SI team is challenging the status quo daily, breaking down barriers to get stuff done. With direct access to our executive team while using existing resources and knowledge, they continuously challenge processes and find ways to expedite them.

Paul (LM): From the beginning of our partnership with Strategic Innovation, we felt that SI had our best interests at heart. The SI team recognized that, as a startup, we still were working to establish our own corporate identity. Rather than force us to fit the mold of a traditional Toyota vendor, SI took the approach that our long-term strength would benefit them in the long term. They worked with us to streamline administrative processes that could have overburdened us otherwise. SI took advantage of its direct access to executive leadership, as well as its mandate to move fast and experiment to make this possible.

Share your personal experience as you collaborated with one another.

Jason (TFS): I should start by explaining that in SI we focus on the three i’s: innovate, incubate and then incorporate.Prior to incubating with Launch Mobility, SI conducted some proof of concepts that didn’t make it to incorporate, and that’s okay. But we learned from each and pivoted. One of those failures is what lead us to the carshare for rideshare proof of concept that we tackled with Paul and Carlos [Sierra]. Paul and Carlos had prior experiences of their own that they brought to the table to build the KINTO Share program that we know today.

Paul (LM): We worked closely with the SI team to ensure that we developed a pilot that addressed a number Toyota Financial Services objectives, from identifying it’s role in mobility space to how it managed residual risk. At the same time, the SI team showed a lot of respect for the expertise that we brought to the table. They empowered us to drive program design where we’re best positioned to do so.

What will be your advice to anyone working with SI (as a member of SI team or as a startup working with them)

Jason (TFS): I would always say “Dream big and challenge conventional thinking”.  The goal is to disrupt from within before we are disrupted from the outside.

Paul (LM): I’d recommend to anyone working with SI to recognize what you do best and bring that experience to the table. SI thrives off of diversity in perspectives. SI will give you a platform to have an impact within TFS and in the broader market, but you have to grab that opportunity! 

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