I believe there are three phases of startup and corporation collaboration (all of which are needed by the way!):
One-night stands, dating, and finally marriage.
One night stands are the first contacts between startups and corporations. Mingling at startup events, arranging innovation competitions, hackathons and the like. These are needed for people to get first experiences with startups and learn how different, yet lovely they are.
Dating phase is an accelerator program. There corporations get to experience the startup way of doing things. Iterating fast, focusing on the user experience, and providing customer care that is beyond just words. They also get feel what it is to truly share information and work without silos – things that are essential for creating real innovations.
Research shows that such programs work when they are outsourced to a party that understands corporations, and even more importantly: follows “lean startup” or similar methods. Coaching in the program also has to be focused on designing the businesses so that it create value to customers, not pitching or scaling them too early (unfortunately that is what most, but not all, accelerators do). Dating may or may not include investments into startups, but at least it should include some kind of business deals with the most suitable ones.
To make all that happen, it is crucial to have commitment from the top management and resources allocated for collaboration. It is also important to be flexible to learn and adjust processes so that you can actually get the innovations from the startups.
Marriage means getting even more serious and committed to working with startups. In the startup world, marriage has to be polygamy as marriage with just one startup seldom works. There is a high risk of killing the customer orientation/speed of startups with corporate processes and rules. That is why you need to systematically work with enough startups to achieve the critical mass and also make sure the corporation learns to benefit from startups.
And that’s it, the lovely world of startups’ and corporations’ love life.
Altogether 13 startups, 3 months. And in addition, we had one startup from Industrial Bank of Korea accelerator. We have learned a lot. Nestholma has now done 21 accelerators for large corporations and we are reaching the level that we know how to start the change in corporations. I would also say that Nordea has been an amazing partner. They accept the facts and start changing when needed. The guys working for Nordea have the right attitude for cooperation. Really professional gang, but also cool to work with.
But Nestholma has a bigger mission. We are saving corporations. They need to be saved. From themselves. And startups are great tools for that. Corporations learn how to be agiler, they learn how to make decisions fast and how to design products and services with customers; and fast. But the best thing on accelerators is that startups deliver the innovations, at the speed of light…or night. I usually say that it takes a year to iterate by a corporation and a night by a startup. It is almost true =). But often corporations are also lean. Well, at least some parts of them and yet still many projects just stop. For no reason, they just are undone.
The best thing about implementing our mission is that the startups gain so much. They get the support from our partner corporation and Nestholma team, they need and they can start scaling their businesses. And for investors, we provide “bank tested” startups. Of course, some of them are better than others, but all of them are much better than they were 3 months before.
So amazing 3 months done. Not to mention Slush week; I was on stage 4 times talking to corporations as well discussing the change at Bank of Finland event. We also did investments at Slush and Ultrahack hackathon. And last week I was named on the list of TIVI top 100 most influential professionals in Finland. I guess that is also a prove that corporate startup accelerators are here to stay.
I finally got some rest during the weekend and now I feel gratitude for the amazing entrepreneurs at Nordea accelerator startups, for Nordea guys and mentors and my colleagues at Nestholma. All this happened only because of you. My sincere thank you to all.
See the startups pitching in the Demo Day
Antti Kosunen @anttikosunen