Speaking at the Marketing Society’s annual conference in London this morning, Devonshire said "analogue dinosaurs" needed to incubate, develop and learn from small start-ups to navigate the "digital economy", which he labelled as "more profound" than the industrial revolution.
Big corporate businesses needed to take learnings from the outside world, rather than focusing internally in order to drive change and innovation, Devonshire said. The explosion in the number of entrepreneurs looking for funding offered this opportunity.
The marketing industry was, he said, in a position more than "any other service sector" to take advantage of the changes that the digital economy have brought about – "unparalleled connectivity, computer processing power and software".
In response to the changing industry, Telefonica launched Wayra three years ago and has invested in 400 businesses worldwide, including 31 in London in the past month.
Its investment in Skin Analytics, a start-up that enables people to take photos of their skin to check for skin cancer, provided an "unconventional way to penetrate a core audience very, very quickly" in some regions of Latin America where one in two people suffered from skin cancer.
"There are today more entrepreneurs wrestling to scale up than ever before - and whilst we have this explosion from one side of the ecosystem, what we also seem to be experiencing is an implosion of the analogue dinosaurs – the big corporates – one of which I represent," he said.
The "dynamic, agile businesses who are inventing the businesses of the future" and the big corporates struggling to innovate" were each in possession of the other’s "antidote", he concluded.