Tracking the corporate-supported startup accelerators

disneyaccel3A 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. Typically 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 innovative new concepts, some number of which link into their strategies. We’ll explore in a future post the costs and benefits of these corporate-supported accelerator programs, but Innovation Leader doesn’t agree 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 the Disney-Techstars media and entertainment accelerator.)

And on to the highest-profile corporate accelerators launched to date…Our definition encompasses programs that are directed, sponsored, or overseen by a single corporation (or a small handful), as opposed to accelerators which may have a half-dozen or more corporate sponsors or partners.


• 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

    Partner: TechStars

    Started: 2014 (Here’s the initial announcement, from December 2013)

• Citrix Startup Accelerator

    Goal: To make investments in “enterprise startups creating the next generation of cloud infrastructure services, mobile enterprise solutions, and collaboration technologies.”

    Location: Santa Clara, CA

    Started: 2010

• Coca-Cola Founders

    Goal: “Founders are given an unfair advantage through the power of Coca-Cola and the opportunity to do what most can only dream about. Coca-Cola gets early access to new, fast-growing markets and proven growth opportunities for our business.” Once the team validates its idea, Coca-Cola makes a minority equity investment. Program has no application process; founders are selected by Coca-Cola through references and the company’s network.

    Location: Global/virtual

    Started: 2013

• 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

    Location: Berlin

    Started: 2012

• Disney Accelerator

    Goal: Back ten startups in the media and entertainment space, with up to $120,000 in funding each.

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: Los Angeles

    Started: 2014 (Here’s coverage of the initial announcement)

• Healthbox 

    Goal: “Build positive change in the healthcare industry.”

    Partners: Blue Cross Blue Shield of Massachusetts, BlueCross BlueShield Venture Partners, Walgreens, and Express Scripts

    Locations: Chicago, Boston, London

    Started: 2011

• Intel Education Accelerator

    Goal: “Grow your education start-up from your initial Angel funding and a working beta product to a transformative company that changes education for student success.” Potentially up to $100,000 in investment from Intel Capital.

    Partners: GSVlabs

    Location: Redwood City, Calif.

    Started: 2015

• Kaplan EdTech Accelerator

    Goal: Incubating startups focused on education

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: New York

    Started: 2013 (here’s the initial press release)

• Microsoft Accelerators

    Goal: “A global initiative empowering entrepreneurs around the world on their journey to build great companies. We work with startups at every stage of maturity to provide the tools, resources, knowledge and expertise they need to succeed.” Also promotes the use of Microsoft Azure cloud services and other Microsoft product.

    Location: Bangalore, Beijing, Berlin, Seattle, Tel Aviv, Paris, London,

    Started: 2012

• Nike+ Accelerator 

    Goal: Encourage companies “to use Nike+ technology to create products and services that will inspire athletes across a broad range of activity and health goals including training, coaching, gaming, data visualization and quantified self.”

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: Portland, OR

    Started: 2013 (here’s the initial press release)

• Pearson Catalyst (apparently defunct)

    Goal: “Identify the most promising education startup companies that share Pearson’s commitment to improving people’s lives through learning, and help enable them to break through on a global scale.”

    Location: Startups work out of their own offices.

    Started: 2013 (here’s the launch press release)

• Qualcomm Robotics Accelerator

    Goal: Attract entrepreneurs working on “next generation smart machines” that may incorporate Qualcomm technologies like its Snapdragon chip. First class will include 10 startups.

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: San Diego, CA

    Started: 2014 (here’s the launch press release)

• R/GA Connected Devices Accelerator

    Goal: Attract 10 startups working on physical products and connected applications. R/GA is an ad agency with 1,200 employees that is part of The Interpublic Group. “We believe that our expertise in branding, design, and technology can positively impact the startups accepted into the accelerator,” says Bob Greenberg, R/GA’s Founder, Chairman and CEO. “We can help these startups succeed and create opportunities for them to work with our clients.

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: New York, NY

    Started: 2013 (here’s the release announcing it)

• 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

    Started: 2013

• Sprint Mobile Health Accelerator

    Goal: The telecom company aims to attract 10 startups working on technologies related to mobile health, or using phones for activities like fitness tracking, medical appointment scheduling, or even diagnosing illnesses. “The focus,” according to Sprint, “is to help startups build the future of mobile health that changes the world one patient or consumer at a time.”

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: Kansas City, MO

    Started: 2013 (here’s the release announcing it)

• StartUp Health Academy

    Goal: “Help early-stage consumer health companies navigate the unique challenges of building successful growth companies.”

    Partners: GE and StartUp Health

    Location: Startups work out of their own officers; quarterly meetings in major metro areas.
    Started: 2013 (here’s the initial press release)

• Techstars/Target Retail Accelerator

    Goal: Attract entrepreneurs working on new technologies for the retail industry, whether online, in stores, or both.

    Partner: TechStars

    Location: Minneapolis, MN

    Started: 2016 (Here’s the blog post announcing its creation)

• Turner/Warner Brothers Media Camp Academy (on hold for 2015)

    Goal: Helping entrepreneurs build innovative media businesses.

    Locations: Alternates between San Francisco and Los Angeles

    Started: 2012

• Volkswagen ERL Technology Accelerator (apparently defunct)

    Goal: “Accelerate and collaborate with startups to transfer technology from many industries into the automotive domain.”

    Partner: PlugAndPlay

    Location: Sunnyvale, CA

    Started: 2013

• 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.”

    Location: Global/virtual

    Started: 2014

• 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

    Started: 2015

Additional reading on this topic: “Accelerators are no longer just for tech companies,” from Bloomberg Businessweek

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