In the past, startups and corporations were very much separate. While corporations maintained the status quo, developing million dollar deals for products everyone already has, startups were the kings of innovation, creating brand new technologies that no one had even dreamed of before. But now, corporations understand that a little innovation goes a long way, which is why many have set up accelerators in hopes of evolving their company along with everyone else.
As a startup looking to join a corporate accelerator, it can be pretty daunting to approach the big guys. However, with this comprehensive road map, you’ll be able to start on your journey towards a corporate partnership.
Pick Your Problem
Corporate accelerators are very specific in the needs they are trying to meet. With bountiful resources and a gargantuan network, these accelerators are still looking for the right niche to make a difference. Make sure you pick which corporate accelerator you’re interested in based on what problem your company solves.
“Building great products has to do with solving the problems of your clients,” said Jason Grad, founder at Bstow. “For any corporate accelerator, we highly recommend reaching out to people from both the accelerator side and the corporate side to make sure there is a good fit – this will also help you in the application process.”
Build Your Team
A great idea will go nowhere without a drive team behind it. You can have all the capital in the world, but without employees that can get the job done right, no corporate accelerator is going to look in your direction. Build a team that can
“Most importantly, companies that are ripe for corporate accelerators have a team who are creative, committed and passionate, and are willing to do the hard work it takes to be successful,” said Kurt Dammerman,VP, Head of Highway1.
Understand Your Story
This is true of any startup looking for success. Understanding your story is the most effective way to get and keep the attention of a corporate accelerator, as they’ve been around the block more than a few times. Figure out what makes you different.
“The application process gives a handy framework for organizing your story. As one of my favorite investors tells us, the first thing every startup needs to do is to “get your stuff together!” although he uses a different word.” said Scott Lininger, CEO and cofounder of Bitsbox, a graduate of AT&T Aspire Accelerator. To apply, you need to tell a clear story. Having to assemble a clear story always teaches you things about your business.”
Have a Product
J.K. Rowling wrote Harry Potter on a napkin, but that doesn’t mean you can do the same when applying for a corporate accelerator. You need to have an actual product that you can properly demonstrate, as interviewers will want to see what it can do in real life.
“We have companies that apply with a napkin sketch,” said Kurt Dammerman, VP, Head of Highway1. “You must have a working prototype. Companies get the most out of the program if they are at a stage where they have a working prototype but need to improve it, vs. having a concept only.”
Get Ready to Interview
Similar to applying for an actual position, large corporations are defined by their lengthy interview process. Be prepared to endure not one, but many different interviews with scores of different managers, employees, and even executive members of the company.
“The application process involved multiple interviews,” said Felicia Schneiderhan, CEO of 30 Seconds to Fly.
Reap the Benefits
It’s no secret that joining a corporate accelerator is good for your company. But what kind of benefits do startups in these programs enjoy? Capital and resources are the obvious ones, but startups also enjoy mentorship, inside information, and networking opportunities that would go unutilized without this kind of partnership.
“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,” said Schneiderhan. “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.”
Read more about startup accelerators on TechCo
Photo: Flickr / Nick Bastian