The Great Accelerator Race

More and more European giants are getting involved in the startup space. Last month, leading UK retailer John Lewis was added to the growing list announcing its new startup incubator JLAB. But why is everyone clamouring to get a foot in the startup ecosystem?

Accelerators and incubators are becoming famous for providing capital and mentorship for a defined time period to radically grow startups who manage to secure a place. Spaces on these programmes are competitive with success stories often coming as a result of the experience. With companies such as Airbnb and Dropbox having stemmed from an accelerator it is easy to see why there has been a marked growth in the popularity of these programmes globally, and why corporations are taking note.

The benefit to big businesses is great. By getting directly involved within the startup ecosystem corporates are able to access an endless fountain of knowledge gained through startup experimentation – things that can be too risky for large companies to try and learn themselves. But by mentoring these startups the corporations receive even more. Sharing knowledge is the new power and by helping startups, larger companies are finding themselves to be learning a lot more than an outsider could anticipate.

IT Director of John Lewis, Paul Coby spoke of why they felt getting involved with startups is so beneficial: “Innovation is a fundamental part of our DNA. We’ve been ahead of the game in terms of omni-channel retailing and providing our customers with the most advanced, seamless shopping possible, and we want to ensure we continue to do so in the future. By working with startups, JLAB will help us to identify those innovations that will provide strategic advantage to us in the future, while giving customers even more great reasons to shop with us.

Working with start-ups in this way helps us to learn a different way of doing things. They have a very different mentality from a big business like ourselves, and they are often on the cutting-edge of new technologies and ideas.”

There are also potential financial benefits to be gained from these ventures. The corporate investment that comes from being a part of the accelerator could potentially be investment into the next Facebook, providing the company running the accelerator with lucrative gains.

John Lewis are not the only big name joining the great accelerator race. Multinational bank Barclays have joined up with world-renowned Tech Stars to set up a 15-week FinTech accelerator in London due to start this June. Across the pond Disney have also recently announced their own accelerator adding to the ever-growing list of corporation run accelerators. These corporations play an important part in further building the startup ecosystem into something that is sustainable.

Last year was one for the record books in terms of accelerators. With over 200 programmes now in existence worldwide we will only see more success stories, giving even more reason to get involved with startups and experience the benefits.