The first time I took part in an acceleration program run by a corporation was in 2008. It was an exciting adventure, during which I primarily learned how many things not to do. I used the experience from that period when I designed modern acceleration programs. Including those dedicated to corporations. From the point of view of a startup, the acceleration offers many benefits, such as access to mentors, funding & promotion. Sometimes it’s the possibility of validating ideas or making a pivot. But why do corporations need acceleration programs?

If the acceleration programs give so many benefits to startups, do the corporations that create such programs can also benefit from them? Corporations should look at a program’s implementation from a different perspective than the startups. They should analyze the long-term benefits. There is no pressure on them to show the effect of work immediately. Corporations have time. Corporations have resources. Corporations also have their recipe for success. But they still have to watch their competitors’ actions. Most of them are only waiting to take the company’s place the second they miss the right moment for changes. The pressure from market rivals as well as new technologies that shake the foundations of business makes corporate acceleration programs an essential element for innovation strategies. They can affect the company’s development and its ability to adapt to new solutions. The most important benefits of having its own acceleration program are:

  • Access to technology, trends, and innovations – there are much more startups willing to cooperate with a company operating on a vast scale than one could expect. This allows corporations to test technical novelties. Without hiring extra staff or incur high business risks.
  • Access to talent – startups often consist of extraordinary and very talented people. Visionaries, innovators, and specialists in various fields of knowledge can be valuable resources for corporations. It could also be a start for new products and services. 
  • Protecting technology from the competition – working with a startup may allow the corporation to have faster access to the solution than their competitors. 
  • Company shares – Accelerators usually do not include large startup shares. The acquisition of shares is a good starting point for an increase in financial and participatory involvement. Of course, only if the startup is successful.
  • Startup ecosystem engagement – The market will immediately notice every new corporate accelerator. The local or regional startup scene accepts such programs as a part of the ecosystem
  • Platform for testing your technology – This allows you to discover new applications or technology expansion opportunities. 
  • Increasing the company’s innovation culture – working in a dynamic environment will be a valuable experience and may become another source of new projects implemented within the company.
  • Image benefits – showing the company as a modern, open-minded and innovative organization.

Having your own acceleration program may also carry some risk, so the decision to launch such a program should be very well thought out. You should not run such a program if:

  1. There is a tendency for creating corporate accelerators 
  2. The company lacks experience in cooperation with startups 
  3. This is to be a one-off action 
  4. You didn’t define the purpose and goals of the acceleration program
  5. You don’t have a precise process for collaboration with the best startups after the program ends 

The decision to launch a startup accelerator is not always easy. The benefits that can be achieved will not appear immediately and can be quite enigmatic. Even so, more and more corporations decide to start this kind of activity and are quite successful in this field. Apart from the advantages of having such an instrument, there are also some risks, such as:

  • Return on investment – most of the time accelerators generate only costs. 
  • Attracting the best talents – The variety of startup support programs can attract the best teams. Simultaneously, those who come forward may have very different preparation and customization of their solutions for the corporation.
  • Publication of strategy – Effective implementation of an acceleration program will need transparency. You must lay your cards on the table in front of industry rivals. You’ll also show the assumptions of the corporate strategy development directions. It will also allow a look inside of the organization’s internal processes.
  • Credibility of startups – Startups are not the most reliable business partners in the corporate assessment. They operate in the area of high uncertainty and have not very stable foundations. 

Knowing the risks associated with launching a startup accelerator can help you prepare and manage it. However, it would help if you kept in mind that even the best-prepared plan will prove its value only in battle. Before you can get the corporate-startup acceleration program results, you should first put a lot of energy into it. Mostly into its preparation and implementation. And then arm yourself with a little patience.

Author: Wojciech Drewczyński

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