A startup accelerator brings together a group of entrepreneurs developing a variety of business ideas, and typically supplies them with three things: free office space for a specified time period (usually around three months), a small amount of seed funding (usually around $20,000 – $30,000), and access to a group of experienced executives or entrepreneurs who serve as mentors. Often at the conclusion of the program, there’s a “demo day” when each entrepreneur presents in front of an audience of investors, community members, and prospective business partners.
The accelerator model dates back to around 2005, when Y Combinator was founded, but in recent years we’ve seen a growing number of big companies launch accelerators as a way of supporting and funding innovative new concepts, some number of which link into their strategies. Innovation Leader doesn’t agree with the notion that every corporation needs an accelerator program. Instead, we think there’s substantial upside (with very limited investment) in having your employees serve as mentors for existing programs, and attend demo days, potentially making investments or striking up partnerships when interests align. It’s typically very easy to do either of those things; here’s a list of some of the top (non-corporate) accelerator programs around the world. (The picture at right comes from Disney’s media and entertainment accelerator.)
Our definition of “corporate accelerator” encompasses programs that are directed, sponsored, or overseen by a one company or a small handful, as opposed to accelerators run primarily as investment vehicles or economic development engines for a particular city, even though those may have corporate sponsors or partners. Organizations like Techstars, Plug & Play, and Rocketspace are those most commonly involved in providing operational support and expertise tied to corporate accelerators.IL members can access a downloadable spreadsheet in our Resource Center with an updated list of our favorite major corporate accelerators. The document also includes a list of accelerators that have been discontinued or are on hiatus. If you’re not yet a member, find out more about the benefits of Innovation Leader membership.
Below are some of the more prominent corporate accelerators highlighted on our spreadsheet.
• Airbus BizLab
Goal: “Airbus BizLab is a global aerospace accelerator, where startups and Airbus intrapreneurs speed up the transformation of innovative ideas into valuable businesses.” Intended for aerospace startups, but also blockchain, cybersecurity, data analytics, satellite imagery, and more.
Locations: Toulouse, France; Hamburg, Germany; Bangalore, India
• Barclays Accelerator
Goal: To make investments in 10 startups developing financial services technology, in areas like digital banking, payment solutions, and securities trading platforms.
Location: London, UK
• Deutsche Telekom’s hub:raum Accelerator
Goal: “Provides seed funding for startups that have the potential to fundamentally transform important markets for Deutsche Telekom.”
Partners: General Assembly and Betahaus
• Disney Accelerator
Goal: Back ten startups in the media and entertainment space, with up to $120,000 in funding each.
Partner: Initially launched with TechStars, but now run by Disney
Location: Los Angeles
• Microsoft Accelerators
Goal: “We accelerate the success of innovative, B2B enterprise-ready companies by providing unprecedented access to top Microsoft partners and customers, powerful business connections, and technical knowledge.” Also promotes the use of Microsoft Azure cloud services and other Microsoft products.
• Samsung Accelerator
Goal: Attract entrepreneurs who “want to help us develop products and services that can become the connective tissue between our various devices — TV’s mobile phones, tablets, cameras, laptops, home theater systems, etc.” Samsung promises them “all the benefits of running a startup – fast pace, small teams, risk-taking energy – but with all the advantages of Samsung’s resources, access to our decision-makers and product roadmap, and distribution to our massive audience.”
Locations: Palo Alto, CA and New York, NY
• Techstars/Target Retail Accelerator
Goal: Attract entrepreneurs working on new technologies for the retail industry, whether online, in stores, or both.
Location: Minneapolis, MN
• Wells Fargo Startup Accelerator
Goal: Attract innovative startups “in payments, deposits, fraud, operations and other fields [that] could shape future customer experiences in financial services.”
• XRC Labs
Goal: An accelerator “for the next generation of disruptors in the retail and consumer goods sectors.”
Partners: Kurt Salmon, Parsons School of Design, Harvard Innovation Lab
Location: New York City