Adobe has always been the gold standard for the digital toolkit of the creative industry. If you’re an artist, designer, photographer, filmmaker, illustrator, animator or music producer, then chances are you’re already familiar with one or more of the software giant’s products. What started out as a spot-on partnership with Apple in the 80s for licensing PostScript, led to a long-term collaboration, which opened the doors to digital publishing and, some might say, created the digital creative industry altogether.
Adobe has maintained its strong foothold for decades, as it has little to no competition in the market. But the ripening of the digital era has brought more power to individuals to challenge the status quo.
Over the past few years, new companies like Serif (Affinity Photo, Designer & Publisher) and Bohemian Coding (Sketch) have created software that solves some of the long-lasting complaints of Adobe users. On the other hand, free to use alternatives like Canva and Pixlr answer the new demand for graphic material, a consequence of the rise of Social Media. Marketed to a broader, non-professional audience that doesn’t have a budget nor the real need for Adobe’s products, these companies have developed easy to use applications that allow ‘anyone’ to become a designer.
However, even from its pedestal, Adobe spotted this need for low-entry software that could bring more creative power to the everyday user.
The corporation started experimenting with the concept in 2014, with the launch of Adobe Voice for iPad: an animated video app that allowed anyone to create and share engaging video stories. Later, it became Adobe Spark Video and was re-launched together with Spark Post and Spark Page in 2016.
Adobe Spark is a unified, free, cloud-based design platform for the desktop and mobile devices that covers the three main aspects of mainstream visual media: video, graphic design and digital publishing.
“Today anyone can create content and share it via social media, but most people lack the skill, time and resources to create something that cuts through the online clutter,” said Bryan Lamkin, executive vice president, and general manager, Digital Media at Adobe. “With Adobe Spark, anyone can create authentic, professional looking visual content for their project, passion, cause or business."
Whereas Adobe Photoshop and Illustrator don’t really need a large marketing effort, Adobe has taken a strong community-based approach to ensure that Spark reaches the right market and grows through continuous user feedback.
Social Media isn’t just the destination of the content created by Spark users; it’s also where users get to know Spark products and engage with the Spark team to discuss questions, report problems, and request features. For example, one initiative asked users how they would describe the products to their friends. The answers originated some product taglines that the team couldn’t have come up with all by themselves.
"With all the products I have built at Adobe, I have always treated social media as a two-way street. Social media is not TV, so give a voice to your followers and implicate them. This is another great source of qualitative feedback from real-world users for your team."
Adobe Spark is a great example of an in-house incubator’s outcome. Adobe’s internal growth hacking team (led by Director of Growth Thibault Imbert) developed the new venture from scratch within the company walls, by utilizing their knowledge, resources, and employees to challenge the current status quo and catch up with the market demand.
"(…) what I have observed is that often, people have good intents and good ideas, it's just that they have been beaten down by bureaucracy. So my recommendation is, first, talk to many individuals to seek patterns and start identifying where the problems are, step back so you can see these bottlenecks, then relentlessly try to get rid of them.”
Adobe Spark is still very closely connected to the parent-company, unlike most of the corporate startups that we’ve covered so far. It serves as an illustration of how broad the corporate venturing scope can be. From completely detached startups to partnerships and acquisitions, corporate venturing is a practice easily adaptable to every company’s specifications.