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Over the past few years, there has been a shift in the way mainstream companies regard innovation. Innovation within regular companies is endless meetings, financial approval, and various different stakeholders – all of the course slows down innovation.
When these companies look at startups, they see small teams creating a mass of new ideas and bringing them to market with inexplicable agility.
If corporations are looking to grow and innovate, they not only need to start thinking differently but also start making some changes. It’s what we call Startup Innovation.
In an attempt to emulate startups and develop a culture of innovation, many larger companies have introduced innovation teams to their organisational structure. Recruiting new entrepreneurial managers to look at the corporation with a discerning eye and develop teams with ideas. Surely, they will come up with great ideas. But is this yet another layer of bureaucracy?
Many companies who opt for innovation teams keep them physically separate from other sectors of their organisation to avoid influencing the team with the existing enterprise. An assumption that these teams need to be in a separate and incubated environment to be creative. Often this disconnect between the main company and the innovation team makes the team ineffective.
The ineffectiveness of these internal innovation teams means that a lot of larger corporations are now looking for solutions externally, in the form of corporate-startup accelerators. Able to tap into the startup and innovation culture and stay close to emerging trends by sponsoring early-stage startups and providing them with investment and mentoring.
Microsoft and Barclays were some of the first corporations to offer these opportunities in 2010, and major retailers such as Target and John Lewis followed suit. By bridging the gap between startup innovation and the corporation, the company has the means to capture the innovation. Likewise, the startup has the opportunity to work closely with an established company, developing under the guidance of an investor and potential client.
Corporations looking to grow and innovate not only need to start thinking differently, but also start linking up with startup thinking.
There are rightly some critics of corporate-sponsored accelerators, who believe that independent accelerator programmes are more beneficial to startups. Their main argument is that sponsored accelerators tend to focus too much on the company investing in the programme, rather than on what the startups actually need. So a balance needs to be struck.
As a startup, it may be more attractive to enter a programme with the possibility of meeting multiple investors and partners.
Companies participating in seed accelerators also get the added benefit of being introduced to a diverse range of startups, chosen by an unbiased process, which might not happen with the development of its own managed corporate accelerator.
This new corporate-startup concept gives us the opportunity to design and benefit from a range of new relationships, expertise and new product ideas.