How to Foster Innovation in Corporates: A Corporate-Startup Engagement Approach

How to Foster Innovation in Corporates: A Corporate-Startup Engagement Approach

16-May-2017 by Natalia Sakmarova

It’s no secret that innovation is the key to success, for both startups and corporates. Collaboration between the two worlds is in many cases mutually beneficial.

Most startups have the mind-, skill- and tool-set, as well as the entrepreneurial passion and focus that help them grow fast. But they often lack access to clients, capital, and resources. Connecting with corporates provides them with useful connections, access to resources, market expertise, and brings them revenue.

Large corporates, on the other hand, have the resources, capital, users and distribution power to grow successful innovations fast. They are also experts in executing known business models. But the mind-, skill- and tool-set to search for new business models is not always a part of the corporate DNA. In addition, big companies often struggle to innovate due to structural barriers. Collaboration with startups can help corporates discover new business models and foster open innovation. The outcome is clear: startups and corporates often need to Collaborate to Innovate.

Startup-corporate engagement lies at the heart of Startupbootcamp. Startupbootcamp programs, three of which are located in Amsterdam, partner with global and local corporates to exchange their knowledge and initiate collaboration. There are many ways for corporate partners to become involved in the accelerator programs first-hand. One way is allocating an Intrapreneur in Residence (IIR) who participates in the program to work alongside the 10 startups selected for the 3-months of startup acceleration.

Startupbootcamp Amsterdam’s sister company Innoleaps is also built on the principle that Startupbootcamp has developed over the last 7 years. This accelerator for corporates teaches large organizations the startup way of operating and helps them change mind-, skill- and tool-set in order to innovate fast and furious. Innoleaps has developed different formats and processes that always start with getting full buy-in at the C-level. “If C-level is not on board, we don’t even start accelerating internal innovations. The CEO must be driving this new way of thinking and working,” said Patrick de Zeeuw, co-founder, and CEO of Startupbootcamp and Innoleaps.

But successful collaboration between startups and corporates is not that straightforward. In reality, the majority of corporates haven’t created strategies and processes to allow collaboration with startups. The structure of corporates makes them highly resistant to disruptive technology, and more than 53% of startups think that corporates do not genuinely disrupt. Patrick says that there can be many reasons that affect the collaboration between the startups and corporates positively or negatively.

“There could be many reasons that make it difficult to foster a fruitful collaboration between the two worlds including lack of trust and mutual interest, not speaking each other’s language, legal and financial barriers, and completely different ways of working. It is important for the startups and corporates to constantly communicate about the issues they might come across and solve them fast.”

According to Patrick, one possible solution is to create a so-called “fast lane” in a corporate environment so startups can quickly and easily run pilots with a corporate. Startupbootcamp helps more and more corporate partners create such fast lanes by involving the traditional and more risk-averse “nay-sayer departments” like legal, finance and procurement.

Innovate 50 event in New York

Mesut Celebi, co-founder of the Startupbootcamp Commerce program in New York, agrees that sharing knowledge and supporting the collaboration between the startups and corporates is crucial. Representing Startupbootcamp and Innoleaps, Patrick and Mesut have taken part at numerous exclusive events like Innovate 50 in New York, where Patrick had a session on corporate startup engagement with 30 of the Top Fortune 100 executives including CIOs and board members of McDonalds, McKinsey, and Ford.

“Opportunities like these give us the chance to share our expertise on corporate – startup engagement and highlight the importance of collaboration between small but fast-growing startups and very large organizations. We can share direct insights and learnings from working with many large global companies from Tech and non-Tech industries and apply those principles to almost all industries,” explained Mesut.

Patrick de Zeeuw sharing knowledge at Innovate 50 event with Fortune 100 CEOs and CIOs in New York

At The Innovate 50 event which took place in March, several alumni from Startupbootcamp were present including Token and Hijro from the FinTech program in New York and Dashmote and TryLikes from the Commerce program in Amsterdam. The teams shared their experience in collaboration with large companies at a round table event with the participating CEOs and CIOs.

Stefan Tan, co-founder & CFO at Dashmote, says that they recognized early on the value of working with corporates. In his opinion, collaboration is essential. Startups are excellent at understanding what people want and need but often they stumble at scaling and bringing innovative products to the market. Usually, due to their size, larger companies move too slow, yet they have the ability to scale products and open markets.

“Startups need corporates and vice versa! Events such as Innovate 50 offer the unique opportunity to connect startups and corporates for creating enormous long-term value and accelerating innovation.”

Janneke van den Heuvel, co-founder at TryLikes, also points out that corporates and startups / scale-ups need to get a good understanding of the way each of them thinks and works.

Team TryLikes at Startupbootcamp E-commerce 2015 Selection Days

“Once we learn how to work together towards more innovative and disruptive solutions we can actually both grow and move forward. Attending the Innovate 50 in New York and openly discussing the challenges between huge companies and scale-ups was a great way to achieve those essential next steps towards growth.”

For more insights from Startupbootcamp about startup and corporate collaboration, read the full Collaborate to Innovate report

To discover more about the experiences of the Dashmote team in New York, continue to their blog

Natalia Sakmarova

Natalia is the Marketing Lead for our accelerator programs in Amsterdam.