Lion Unleashed Accelerator 2017

By Edward Massey, Group Strategy Manager Lion

Why have Lion commissioned the Unleashed Accelerator?

Essentially to try a new approach to growth. We know that growth is primarily happening on the edges of our categories and business model and we want to be a part of that. Primarily we see that its small, agile, tech-led businesses that are pushing new frontiers and driving these pockets of growth, and once you realise and admit that, running an accelerator becomes an obvious thing to do. We had a hypothesis that combining Lion’s scale and assets with Startups’ tech and agility would be a 2+2 = 5 equation.

We wanted to elevate innovation beyond our traditional “product” focus and actively look at new business models, services and channels.

What are your expectations at the end of the program?

The accelerator approach was new, unproven and was positioned internally as an “experiment”. As such, we didn’t set clear goals or objectives beyond testing and learning. However, now we’re nearly finished with the accelerator its clear that the outcomes we all hoped it would deliver, actually will be. I expect us to sign commercial deals with nearly half of the cohort and potentially invest in a couple. Through this program we’ve created new sales channels, new business models and profit centres and completely re-imagined core processes. Its benefited both the core of our business, as well as taken us to the edges.

What insight can you share with other corporates who are looking to innovate through Startup engagement?

Two key ingredients; organisational commitment and structured process. I believe our success has been enabled by genuine top-down commitment and an allocation of resource to the Unleashed program that has allowed us to genuinely work with each of the Startups and Scaleups to work through the different opportunities. Its also been hugely important internally to keep the business engaged in the program. By doing that we’ve been able to access business resource and make decisions faster than we normally would. In many ways the Unleashed accelerator program has accelerated our internal processes as much as the Startups themselves.

What has been the biggest challenge?

As leader of the program I’m constantly having to be two steps ahead of all workstreams and making sure the right people are being influenced at the right time – its been tricky. The best example of this is choosing when the Startups are ready to be introduced to key stakeholders in the business. Its also a challenge to keep working at this pace.

What has been the biggest benefit (expected or unexpected)?

Given we set no real commercial measures of success, I’d say the scale of the commercial benefit we expect to deliver is definitely unexpected. Also unexpected is the catalyst for internal change that Unleashed has come to represent. The Unleashed internal teams have worked in a different way to the way we normally work and that’s been highly effective. Its also shown the value of being better externally connected, and we’ll take these learnings back into the business.

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