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Plugging in to the Startup Ecosystem: An Illustrated Guide

November 14, 2022
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No one would deny there’s a lot happening in the world of startups. But how can large companies tap into it, in a way that aligns with their objectives and creates real value?

For the fourth installment of our “Innovation Illustrated” series, a collaboration with the renowned visual thinking firm XPLANATIONS, we’ve laid out seven of the most common approaches to plugging in to the startup ecosystem — from totally free and lightweight (setting up a meeting with a fledgling company) to most expensive and involved (billion-dollar acquisitions). And with input from actual corporate innovators, we’ve detailed the drivers behind them, as well as some key questions to think through.

The seven approaches we’ve defined include open innovation, hackathons, ad hoc startup investing, corporate venture capital, and accelerator programs. You can print out this large-format graphic and use it to spark discussions with your team and leadership about what you’re doing today; what may need more resources or a different strategy; and what else you should be doing.

Thanks to everyone who provided input as we developed this illustration, and to the sponsors of this research initiative: the MIT Industrial Liaison Program and MIT Startup Exchange.

InnoLead members can download and print the high-resolution illustration below.

Download and print the map to share with your team, in high or low resolution.


See the rest of the “Innovation Illustrated” series…

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