The Corporate Acclerator

Betting the Farm Has Never Looked Better – The ABCs of a Corporate Accelerator

When The Rate Of Change Inside An Institution Becomes Slower Than The Rate Of Change Outside, The End Is In Sight
— Jack Welch, CEO of GE, 2000

What do AT&T, Cisco, Coca-Cola, and Google have in common? Aside from being dominate players in their sectors, these companies share an intent to innovate.

On the other hand, not all companies are quick to embrace innovation or successfully pull it off. What do Polaroid, Compaq, GM, and Kodak have in common? While these companies also once claimed prominence in the consumer realm, they have since filed for bankruptcy, were subsumed by a bigger player or, in GM’s case, are barely recognizable after being dragged from the brink by a government bailout.

Some might suggest that these industry laggards met their fate for reasons other than a failure to entertain their creative bent, but many CEOs today either aren’t buying into innovation or aren’t willing to assume the risks associated with innovation. According to KPMG, CEOs overwhelmingly believe that the next three years will be more critical for their industry than the last half-century, and technological change will be second only to economic factors with respect to influence on growth.

In 1965, companies in the S&P 500 had been there for an average of 33 years. By 1990, that average tenure had dropped to 20 years. And by 2026, it's expected to shrink to 14 years. The clock is ticking for companies who are not innovating as though their lives depend on it. Even if the economy remains stable, little else will.

Corporate Accelerators – Innovate or Fall Behind

This guide introduces the corporate accelerator as a tool for jump-starting company innovation. Companies with successful accelerators can experience a range of potential benefits: for example, improved culture, low-cost R&D, and fruitful relationships with startups that may facilitate potential acquisitions or attract potential employees.  

Some corporate accelerators are securely seated on the fast-moving wagon; others are barely hanging on. With a very healthy rate of failure (90 percent, according to one commentator), accelerators are not an automatic panacea. And the process is not easy.

Close to three-quarters of large companies polled by Accenture in 2015 were under the impression that they were successfully collaborating with entrepreneurs in their pursuit of innovation. However, well over half of the entrepreneurs disagreed. Why the different perceptions?

Perhaps perceptions are skewed because there is a right reason to pursue a corporate accelerator, and public relations is not one of them. Many corporations establish corporate accelerators to give the impression that they are dedicating time, talent, and resources to forging new concepts. But are they really? Much of this is “innovation theater.”

No-BS Guide to Corporate Accelerators

Done right and for the right reasons, corporate accelerators represent a new frontier in the startup ecosystem. To help companies thoroughly consider this emerging tool, we provide a curated guide to either pursuing an accelerator or identifying the need for a different path. This is a no-BS guide to the no-BS accelerator.

With a foundation in traditional accelerators and corporate innovation strategies, this guide breaks down the core competencies necessary to tap into the entrepreneurial ecosystem via the accelerator. It is intended as a living document, meant to centralize knowledge on corporate accelerators and inspire action.

We cover a lot of ground, so to make it more functional as a reference, this guide contains four main sections, not all of which will be relevant to everyone’s situation or needs.

The Corporate Accelerator Stack:

Part 1: What is a Corporate Accelerator?

Part 2: Accelerator Design – Duration, Location, Focus, and Learning  

  • Accelerator Duration

  • Location

  • Industry/Sector Focus

  • Accelerated Learning

Part 3: Accelerator Talent – Applicants and Mentors

  • Startup Motivation
  • Startup Selection – the Funnel
  • Finding Mentors

Part 4: Post-program Value Added – Alumni and Investments

  • Support Programs
  • Post-Program Startup-Corporate

Part 5: Governance – Where Metrics Matter

  • The Cost Conundrum
  • Leadership and Structure
  • Metrics and Lessons Learned

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Corporate Accelerator

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