TL:DR Large corporates really struggle to innovate. Meanwhile startups eat their lunch.
Corporate venturing and accelerators can solve the issue and create a win-win.
If you are a corporate CEO you are probably frustrated by the inability of your company to innovate like a startup. You almost certainly employ some of the brightest people around and may have huge departments looking at innovation or R&D. However, your industry is almost certainly being disrupted by tiny teams of startup founders with new business models and a grasp for frontier technologies such as artificial intelligence and virtual reality.
Corporate executives shouldn’t beat themselves up too much. The odds are weighted against them. It is almost impossible to innovate within the existing corporate structure. Most truly innovative ideas will cannibalise existing business models, change the structure of the company and redeploy the workforce at the very least. It is therefore, extremely difficult for internal departments to gain acceptance from the rest of the company. In addition, risk is a fundimental component of all radical change. Who wants to fail fast in a corporate environment? Yet it is enshrined in startup culture.
The most effective way for corporates to access startup innovation is to buy into it. This can involve either buying early stage startups outright, investing in them or running accelerator programmes. In all cases, there can be huge advantages from having third party involvement. The key is to take a relatively hands-off approach to stop corporate interference which invariably kills the innovation that you are searching for.
Accelerator programmes illustrate this well. A corporate working with a third party can immediately invest relatively small amounts of capital into a small portfolio of interesting early stage businesses. They can provide an environment conducive to growth by giving access to essential corporate assets such as sales channels, engineering resources and other mentors.
At a later stage corporates can invest in more mature startups with a corporate venturing approach. This involves scouting for winners and making individual investments. The challenge is picking the winners and a company like Dreamstake Ventures can help cut through the noise and reduce risk.
Corporate investment in startups, through programmes or individually creates a win-win. The corporate accesses innovation quickly and efficiently, whilst the startup gains resources and support for growth. Corporates need to embrace the startup culture and take their businesses to new heights.
Blog by Paul Dowling — Co-Founder of Dreamstake the world’s first tech accelerator platform focusing entirely on taking startups from inception to Series A. Dreamstake identifies promising startups from universities and other accelerators and provides them with access to the resources they need to achieve later stage success. This is achieved through a large programme run out of Google Campus in London and our own network of experts and investors. We run corporate accelerators on behalf of clients and have recently supported Just Eat with a Foodtech accelerator.