NEW YORK — “Companies like GE can survive as we want to be the best,” said General Electric chairman and chief executive officer Jeffrey Immelt, who delivered the keynote address Wednesday at the Israel Dealmakers Summit.
Immelt told attendees that GE wants the best of everything, from the best people to the entrepreneurs of the firms it acquires to the best ideas, whether GE later buys the firm or becomes an equity partner.
He spoke on “The Strategic Importance of Global Innovation” here at the New York Marriott Marquis and said that GE’s strategy for innovation globally is to take a “big infrastructure idea and try to scale it.” To do that, GE breaks its core areas into “investment themes we can invest in” and looks at businesses that it considers “best in breed.”
Immelt also made the point that “all of us are in technology.” An example he gave was using sensors to monitor fuel in engines and how in analyzing the data, “now GE is an analytics business,” not just Google.
And while he thinks that analytics is a big part of the future, he also spoke about how to be a good partner to start-up companies. Some want all the benefits of a big company but don’t want to be part of one.
He described the mind-set of many Israeli firms that GE works with. Because of the military background of its citizens, there’s a self-confidence that one has coupled with an “I can do this on my own” mind-set. That means that sometimes when GE acquires a firm, entrepreneurs who have great ideas leave at some point because “they’d rather be king of [their] idea even if in a small [firm] than be part of the mother ship.” For Immelt, when considering an acquisition, sometimes it’s better “we should take an equity stake and leave [the entrepreneurs] alone.”