By Ben Weinberger, Accelerator Development at Slingshot
After 15 programs for over a dozen tier one corporate partners we have firmly proven the theory that Startups connecting with corporates are a valuable part of a corporate innovation strategy.
Our clients now have new products, new investments, a more agile view on their own business and internal champions who have experience working with tech founders and integrating those Startups back into the corporates for growth.
Along the way we have experimented with taking applications form internal teams in the recruitment phase of the accelerator to really drive deeper internal engagement but with a mixed response. Our theory was that it was too hard and that some corporates did not have a rigorous internal comms plan to drive applications. Internals also sometimes lacked some of the traits of external entrepreneurs regarding risk appetite and speed of execution and didn’t have access to stand alone tech resources to build prototypes to test.
When one of the world’s largest media companies approached us to use the same processes we had effectively built for external Startup development and apply solely to internal applicants we went through three stages with them.
- Lean on our experience: Look guys we have tried this before and if your staff wanted to be intrapreneurs they would be entrepreneurs
- Gentle dissuasion: Even if you do get a strong enough sample size of applications the ideas need to be disruptive enough to really impact your business
- Letter: Don’t do this, it won’t work, please read the reasons why…
The client did not agree but in good faith and belief in our processes, we partnered to run an internal accelerator. We applied all of the same elements that had served us well before.
- We built a strong innovation brand and marketing assets
- We ran a national Showcase supported by ideation sessions to stimulate ideas
- We built a world class application process with incentives to encourage a high number of applications
Using our experience, we also did some things to reduce the chance of failure.
- We removed the need for internal teams to build the tech. We provided proven tech support experienced in building high quality MVP’s so that any successful teams wouldn’t need either their own tech or the resources of the IT team to build product
- We worked with the internal department heads building a comprehensive set of FAQ’s anticipating all of the questions that would be asked
- We worked extensively with the internal comms team and executives to drive applications and engagement
- Most importantly, we had the Executive Chairman heavily involved at all stages with regular comms reinforcing the fact that the project was not innovation theatre
The results were astonishing.
- 8000 ideas were created at the staff ideation sessions
- 750 plus applications were submitted from almost 10% of the workforce from customer facing right through to executive, with a near 50% gender split
- Time and time again, the comms on the accelerator had the highest engagement from staff
We took these applications, burnt the midnight oil and selected 20 teams for an intensive workshop where we tested their business models and did some preliminary pretotyping before a final pitch to the executive team selecting 7 teams to run through an 8-week accelerator.
Where are we now?
So, we have just kicked off and the accelerator ideas are credible, teams are motivated, the client is engaged, products are being built at a furious pace, customer interviews are underway and the teams that didn’t make the final selection have had an incredible early introduction into ideation and business modelling. We expect all teams to make it through where the client will then consider funding and integration into the core business.
This process also demonstrates a huge appetite for staff driven innovation within the parameters of the corporate’s strategy supported by Slingshot’s process and experience.
So now in hindsight, we are grateful that our client did challenge us, they pushed our thinking and believed in our processes.