Innovation theatre and the problem with corporate accelerators

I recently posted this

It hit on a deep truth….

“How about we take some startups and put them in a petting zoo so they can never infect our core business”. Conor McNicholas

See, traditional corporate accelerators effectively keep innovation ‘to the side’ of the core business and a pattern repeats:

1/ Do innovation experiments
2/ Get excited
3/ Fail to industrialise and scale when commercialised in core business.

It’s a problem. It’s a model built “by investors for investors” not “by corporates for corporates” – simply transplanting this method onto the side of a corporate and expecting it to work is kinda crazy.

And that’s why you hear this all the time – it’s all just ‘innovation theatre’.

A ‘to the side’ model — the classic accelerator lifted from the investment world

Transform the core

What if you designed programmes that could actually transform the core of the business.

What if you unlocked the corporate machinery to actually leverage the entrepreneur ecosystem?

What if you motivated internal stakeholders to solve the problems they actually care about?

What if you leveraged core assets – data, ip, customer, and distribution – to get quick trials and then scale up winners?

What if you started with the problem and found the right startups round the problem (not just stared with a cohort of 12 and try and make something work)?

In short – what if you designed a programme that actually works to create a ‘win win’ for both parties. One that gives both startups and corporates what they want. Rather than leaving both parties dissatisfied?

Aligning interests — leveraging the benefits of both worlds

5 keys to transforming the core with the entrepreneur ecosystem

This seems harder to do but it really isn’t.

Time and again I have seen it work – working with the likes of GSK, Deloitte, and Unilever.

But there are lessons. Here are the keys to success:

1/ Find the open people in the organisation. Those with a budget, a problem to solve and really care (there are always about 20 in any organisation).

2/ Start with the challenge not the start up

3/ Fish from the universe of the best startups against the problem – not just ‘the most available’ in a cohort of 12.

4/ Start small. The quicker the trial the more likelihood of success.

5/ Get an internal unblocker. Their sole task is to get corporate machinery working for — not against – entrepreneurs. This happens through unlocking the assets (data, talent, distribution) but also finance, legal, risk, procurement etc.

We’ve got loads more learnings here. Ping if you’d like insights.

If you liked this and want more then this is 😊 Me , 💵What I invest in,⚡A belief in corporate innovation and 😱A movement I helped start by accident . Also check out and

VC Partner@SAATCHiNVEST. Seed investor in Citymapper, Farewill, Ometria + more. Chief of Staff@Redbrain. NED@Picassolabs. Founder

VC Partner@SAATCHiNVEST. Seed investor in Citymapper, Farewill, Ometria + more. Chief of Staff@Redbrain. NED@Picassolabs. Founder