By Ben Hutt, Chief Program Director, Slingshot Accelerator
Accelerators are a unique ecosystem where opportunity meets aspiration and conviction. They provide mentorship, training, networking and investment to start-ups and serve as a launch pad for growth and scalability by imparting entrepreneurs with invaluable knowledge and fast tracking their learning experience. They also play a vital role as the interface and ambassador between entrepreneurial start-ups and motivated corporates. Using their expertise, experience and market knowledge, they can facilitate partnerships that create beneficial outcomes. Whether your business is struggling to innovate, looking to capitalise on market opportunities or continually seeking to remain ahead of the competition, Startup Accelerators can assist in many ways.
1. Identify areas of disruption and innovation
Accelerators are a convening point for start-ups who, by their nature aim to succeed through market disruption. Corporates who collaborate with the right accelerator can gain insight on market trends and technological development as well as understand how start-ups identify, appraise and approach market opportunities – and whether this creates a risk or opportunity for their business.
2. Understand (and accept) the ‘why’ behind the disruption
For businesses who aren’t at the forefront of market trends and innovation, experiencing the effects of disruption without understanding the context / contributing factors can feel like being caught in ‘innovation turbulence’. Working closely with an industry specific (or agnostic) accelerator can orient your business by providing insight into present trends, emerging technologies and help your business adapt to these changes.
3. Dealing with preconceptions of business challenges
Accelerators encourage and empower start-ups to think beyond their limitations and harness their entrepreneurial streak to overcome challenges. When working with a corporate partner, accelerators will also ask you to challenge your own preconceptions and rethink, sense-check or expand on your vision, strategy and roadmap by channelling the perspective and resourcefulness of start-ups.
4) Collaborate to agreed themes
Embarking on an innovation initiative can be an upheaving and disorienting experience, especially when reality is pointing one way and your strategic roadmap is heading towards another. Regardless of your situation, an accelerator will work with you to develop specific themes that align with your corporate innovation objectives and strategy.
5. Recruit and select entrepreneurs
Understanding your specific corporate innovation themes is crucial to ensure the selection of entrepreneurs with the types of ideas that could potentially help achieve your business goals. Accelerators will work with you to select the best applicants for your objectives.
6. Rapid and diverse R&D
Accelerator programs generally operate on a cohort basis meaning anywhere from 5-15 start-ups concurrently developing different strategies and technologies aimed at your innovation themes. Your business can quickly gain insights through a large scale, cost effective and expedited R&D experiment and subsequently identify high potential areas to be pursued.
7. Make the right decision for your business
Making a decision and implementing it can be challenging at the best of times. However, being faced with a diverse set of business and innovation opportunities introduces a unique set of challenges. Accelerators act in a consultative capacity and help you reflect on your innovation themes, business goals and assist with prioritising opportunities and determining next steps.
8. Empower action
Many businesses see working with a start up as a way to expand their horizons. However, they may be tempted to withdraw when they realise pursuing potential opportunities may entail a distraction from their core business or focus areas. Essentially, they want to be disruptive – but do not want to be disrupted. A Startup Accelerator will not only assist your business with identifying compatible partnerships but also with crafting a change management strategy to fully leverage the opportunity.
9. Leverage new commercial opportunities and customers
New technologies have the potential to disrupt or completely overhaul existing market dynamics creating new opportunities, partnerships and customers. The objective is not simply to disrupt – it is to ensure your business capitalises on the disruption while making it align with your company’s values. Accelerators facilitate the relationship between Startups and your business, ensuring that innovation will translate into real business value for both parties.
10. Endless innovation
Innovation and success are two paths continually diverging and converging on the journey to business growth. Companies must continually utilise technology, outmanoeuvre competitors and deliver on market needs to become and remain relevant. Accelerators can guide your business with developing a business culture that continually pursues innovation and does not become complacent when a goal has been achieved, or disillusioned when plans fail to yield the desired outcome.
Collaborating with a Corporate Accelerator, like that of Slingshot, provides long-term advantages gained by working with flexible, determined and innovative minds. The temptation will always be to begin with determining what to do and how to do it. Instead, establish a clear understanding of why this is the right move for your business. This will serve as a catalyst for exploration, establishing internal alignment and you can then seek out an Accelerator to help you achieve your goals.