What It’s Like to Graduate From a Corporate Accelerator

August 16, 2017

12:20 pm

Joining a corporate accelerator is a big decision for any startup founder and it’s not to be taken lightly. The companies are looking for teams with products that not only will help their bottom line and expand their product offering but also to add value to the industry.

We asked four founders who graduated from a corporate accelerator to offer their insight and talk about the benefits of being a part of this type of program.

Why They Joined a Corporate Accelerator

For many, joining a corporate accelerator program offers the founders the opportunity for industry experts to help them gain a deeper understanding of the market and build solutions for a global market. Scott Lininger, CEO, CTO and cofounder of Bitsbox and graduate of AT&T Aspire Accelerator said the specialization of these programs could be a tremendous benefit to a startup.

“Corporate accelerators tend to be more focused on a specific set of problems, such as education or workforce readiness. If your startup matches these problems, you’re getting the benefit of all their years of thinking about them,” Lininger said.

And when your company is ready to hit the next level, a corporate accelerator can help amplify that process. Michelle Brown, founder and CEO of CommonLit and graduate of the AT&T Aspire Accelerator said the company was ready for this experience.

“Timing was a big factor. We had achieved proof of concept, but we needed support to fully develop our solution and bring it to scale,” Brown said.

What They Gained

The ability to be in company with industry leaders, top experts and a global network that could help one’s company scale was a big draw for the founders.

Felicia Schneiderhan, CEO of 30 Seconds to Fly and graduate of Cockpit Accelerator which is led by jetBlue and El Al Airlines said their company wanted to dig into the industry and expand their knowledge and network.

“As a tech startup in the travel industry we face many challenges because the industry is extremely antiquated. We decided to join an airlines accelerator because we wanted to understand the industry better and access its network and knowledge,” Schneiderhan said.

 

“Market power is concentrated with a few big players which are built around legacy systems that got implemented decades ago. What makes penetrating the industry even harder is that travel technology expertise is very specific and difficult to access.”

Jason Grad, founder at Bstow and graduate of Barclays Techstars said by gaining access to some of the top experts in the world it helped their company achieve milestones and produce a higher quality product.

“We achieved all of our goals. Bstow learned how to be a better company from Techstars and gained access to their network, improved our product by speaking with some of the best cybersecurity experts in the world, and partnered with Barclays Bank – one of the largest banks in the world,” Grad said. “By going through bank-level New Product Approval process, Bstow must comply with higher security standards than any of our competitors.”

Intense Mentorship

Once a startup is accepted into a program, there is an invested interest to help that company succeed and scale. As a result, the corporate accelerator provides a large amount resources, talent and intellect in a short period of time to elevate the startup. Schneiderhan shares her experience:

“During the program we worked closely with El Al and JetBlue. We attended regular sessions where representatives from the airlines and other travel tech companies gave insights into the technology and supply structures of the industry. The travel industry is very complex and often information online is conflicting or difficult to access. Having a pool of experts at our disposal was extremely valuable. We weren’t expected to know the industry inside out but instead it was much more important to be able to pick up new insights fasts and make the connection between the dots rapidly.”

Listening is probably the most valuable thing you could do when you are a part of these programs.

Brown said, “Mentally prepare yourself to do a lot of listening, absorb a lot of information in a short amount of time and be open to testing your assumptions – your company will be better for it. After an accelerator program, you will need to kick off a lot of new projects. I recommend having structures in place to bring the learning you did back to your team.

 

“The mentors in the program were very experienced industry experts who took the time to get to know our pain points and tried to help us see around corners and focus on the big picture. These aren’t just “fly-by” mentors – these are people that become really invested in your long-term success.”

Building Friendships

While going through an intense corporate accelerator program you’re bound to make valuable connections and friendships with those who want to help you succeed. Lininger said,

“Just remember that the most valuable thing you get out of accelerators are the friendships and connections you make. The money, program, and several months of structure are nice, but when that’s all over it’s the people you’d keep going back to.”

Learn more about Corporate Accelerators in our series at Tech.Co.

Find more accelerators around the country at TechCo

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Tishin is a technology journalist and correspondent. She has written for TechCrunch, Demand Studios and Fitness, and has regular network segments on local Phoenix affiliate stations. She holds a Master’s degree in Clinical and Sport psychology, and has covered many areas of technology ranging from 3D printing and game development to neurotech and funding for over 15 years.

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