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How to run a successful corporate accelerator program

Are you ready to unlock the transformative potential of an accelerator program for your corporation Look no further; we've got you covered. Discover the essential steps to effectively manage your corporate accelerator program. 

The History of Accelerators

In the rapidly evolving landscape of innovation, accelerator programs have experienced explosive growth over the last couple of decades, now exceeding a staggering count of over 30,000 programs worldwide.

The roots of accelerator programs can be traced back to the early 2000s when the concept first began to take shape. Among the pioneering accelerators, one name stands out: Y Combinator. Established in 2005 in Cambridge, Massachusetts, and later moving to Silicon Valley, Y Combinator introduced a unique approach to supporting startups. By offering a combination of seed funding, intensive mentorship, and a collaborative environment for a fixed period (typically around three months), Y Combinator kickstarted the accelerator revolution.

What was once the domain of early-stage startups has transcended boundaries, attracting even corporate giants to the game of accelerators. 

Corporate accelerators have gained prominence in the last few year for several reasons. One of these reasons is the rapid rise of startup culture and increasing corporate interest in innovation. The dot-com bubble of the late 90s and early noughts brought the term 'startup' to modern discourse. The size and agility of startups have seen a rapid rise in technology over the past couple of decades, making the words 'startup' and 'innovation' synonymous with one another. Today, corporations know one thing is true - to survive, they need to innovate. In a changing business landscape, corporates need to adopt new technologies and market trends. Hence the recent rapid rise of corporate accelerators. 

Benefits of a corporate accelerator 

So what are some of the key benefits of running a corporate accelerator program:

They open up pathways to innovation:

A corporate accelerator provides direct access to a pool of innovative startups and entrepreneurs. This exposure to fresh ideas, cutting-edge technologies, and disruptive business models can inject new perspectives and creative solutions into organizations.

They accelerate business growth:

Investing in startups with high potential can lead to accelerated growth for the organization. Acquiring or partnering with promising startups can provide a fast track to new markets, products, or services, boosting the company's competitive advantage.

They attract talent:

Corporate accelerators can act as a talent magnet, attracting top-notch entrepreneurs and innovators who are eager to work with a forward-thinking organization. This, in turn, can enhance the company's reputation and employee retention rates.

They help build your brand:

A well-executed accelerator program can significantly enhance a company's brand image and reputation as an innovation leader. Being associated with successful startups and breakthrough technologies can improve the company's market perception and attractiveness to customers and partners.

Building your corporate accelerator 

So how do you actually go about running a corporate accelerator program. We break down the key steps to managing your program effectively. 

1)Ask yourself the right questions

Before embarking on the journey of building your accelerator program, it is crucial to start by asking yourself some key questions to assess your organization's readiness:

  • Is our organization truly prepared for disruption and open to embracing innovation?
  • Are we committed to working collaboratively with startups and providing them with the support they need to thrive?
  • How can we ensure that the positive changes and transformations experienced during the program can be sustained and scaled even after its conclusion?
  • What are the human and financial resources required to run this program effectively, and do we have the necessary capacity to commit to them?

By honestly addressing these questions, you will gain valuable insights and ensure that your accelerator program aligns with your organization's goals and capabilities.

2) Setting clear strategic objectives

The next step in developing your strategy is to clearly define the objectives of your accelerator program. You might have several different objectives for your programs which could include, tapping into emerging technologies, gaining access to innovative solutions, or exploring new business models. 

What is your startup strategy? Are you looking to nurture startups in a specific industry or do you want to gain a border range of innovative ideas? These are important questions to ask yourself when you are considering your strategy. 

Your accelerator program's strategy should align seamlessly with your organization's overall business strategy. Consider how the program can complement your existing operations, contribute to your long-term goals, and fill any innovation gaps within your company. Ensuring your accelerator program is integrated into your corporate ecosystem is crucial. 

3) Determine program structure and duration

Crafting the right structure for your program is key to obtaining the best results. You need to determine whether your accelerator will be a long-term program or a short-term project. Striking the right balance is crucial, as longer programs may reduce the quality of applications received, while shorter programs may not allow enough leeway for sourcing the right startups. Identifying the right duration for the program is crucial.

The program structure should align with the objectives and resources available to your organization. Shorter programs may focus on rapid prototyping and idea validation, making them suitable for quickly testing and iterating on startup ideas. On the other hand, longer programs can provide more comprehensive support to startups, giving them sufficient time to refine their products, scale their businesses, and benefit from ongoing mentorship and resources.

4) Build partnerships and an ecosystem

No accelerator program can thrive without a strong ecosystem. As you are building your accelerator programs its crucial to build you partner networks. 

Key stakeholder can include industry experts, academic institutions and accelerator experts. These stakeholder can contribute to the program in various ways, including providing resources, mentorship and networking opportunities for startups in your programs. A well-rounded ecosystem enhances the credibility and attractiveness of your accelerator.

Consider how you could build an alumni network to build an thriving ecosystem which will last long after the program is finished. 

5) Establish selection criteria

Develop clear and transparent selection criteria to identify the startups that align best with your program's objectives. Selection criteria can include: 

  • Market Potential: Evaluate each startup's market potential and assess whether they have the capacity to integrate within the next 5-7 years. This forward-looking approach helps us support startups that have a long-term vision and sustainable growth potential.
  • Scalability: Does the startup have the potential to achieve significant growth and generate substantial returns? The goal should be to invest in startups that have the capacity to deliver at least ten times the funds invested.
  • Team's Expertise: The founding team's expertise and experience play a crucial role in determining the success of a startup. Visionary, ambitious, and adaptable founders who can scale their business beyond borders and are receptive to feedback and market demands.
  • Industry Alignment: It is important to support startups that align with your industry. By nurturing innovations that are closely related to our business, you can stay at the forefront of technological advancements and foster collaboration within our ecosystem.
  • Encouraging Diversity and Inclusivity: Diversity is a key driver of innovation and success. How can you actively encourage diversity in our selection process to create a rich and inclusive startup cohort? Supporting startups from diverse backgrounds, cultures, and perspectives. By doing so can unlock a broader range of ideas and solutions, leading to stronger and more resilient startups.

6) Measure and evaluate performance

Establish key performance indicators (KPIs) to measure the success of your corporate accelerator program is crucial. Regularly evaluate your program's performance and use the insights to make data-driven improvements. KPIs can include the following: 

  • Number of successful collaborations
  • Total value of portfolio companies 
  • Revenure generated form program participants 
  • Number of technology or business models integrated 
  • Additional of revenue stream from collaborations 

7) Promote your program and engage the organization

To attract top-notch startups and mentors, it is crucial to proactively promote your accelerator program. To achieve this effectively, leverage various avenues by integrating your marketing and communications channels seamlessly. Organize networking events and other impactful gatherings to spread the word about your program. Moreover, ensure that your organization's leadership and employees are fully engaged and supportive of the initiative, as internal support can make a significant difference in its success.

Developing an effective strategy for your corporate accelerator program requires careful planning, alignment with your business objectives, and a commitment to supporting startups throughout their journey. By following these steps, you'll be well on your way to creating a thriving accelerator program that drives innovation and establishes your organization as a leader in your industry.

Get to learn more about corporate accelerators by downloading our infographic below

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Download the Corporate Accelerator Infographic