Safelite AutoGlass Knows You’re Never Too Big to Innovate

The nation’s largest provider of vehicle glass repair runs Safelite Works, a technology innovation lab inside Columbus’ Rev1 Ventures

“Big companies are really bad at innovation because they’re designed to be bad at innovation.” This conclusion from the Harvard Business Review argues that as companies grow, their measure of success moves from their ability to identify and solve problems—the mindset of early-stage companies—to maximizing corporate efficiency and profitability. But don’t tell that to Bruce Millard, vice president of digital and customer innovation at Safelite® AutoGlass. Bruce and his team are flexing their ideation muscles through Safelite Works, an innovation lab run alongside early-stage companies at Columbus’ Rev1 Ventures.

Safelite, the Columbus-based multi-billion-dollar company and the largest provider of vehicle glass repair and replacement services in the U.S., has been a corporate sponsor of Rev1 Ventures for about five years. In late 2016, the company became the first sponsor to open an innovation space in Rev1 Labs.

“A startup environment provides the energy we want to leverage as we work to remain ahead of the curve, to really define how innovation drives our customers’ experience, and to develop technologies to improve our business,” said Millard. “Being around young, hungry entrepreneurs has been the perfect way to do that.”

Rev1, a Columbus partner of Ohio Third Frontier, is a seed and early-stage investment fund providing startups with services and capital to help them succeed. In this space, six to twelve workers on any given day are working on solutions for auto glass needs, associate experience and insurance claims processing.

“We’re in a negative service industry, providing something most people don’t rank highly on their list of preferences, like visiting the dentist or advanced funeral planning. That’s why our efforts are focused on making every step of the process as easy and painless as possible for our customers. We take pride in turning a bad experience—I have a broken windshield—into something far more positive.”

Among the technologies they’ve developed is a machine learning algorithm designed to recognize patterns and quickly identify the parts needed to service repairs. Millard says that Safelite’s efforts to innovate will continue to grow, and they’ll do so at Rev1.

“We’re a 71-year-old company that thinks and operates like a seven-year-old startup,” Millard added. “Being housed at Rev1 fuels our ability to think outside the box. It removes distractions from our home office and provides our team the ability to work in an engaging, creative, and dynamic space.”

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