Hussam Ayyad, our Chief Accelerator Officer explains where accelerators started and how they create value for both entrepreneurs and corporates to make an impact.
My title is probably a dead giveaway, but I strongly believe in accelerators, having dedicated a substantial part of my career to helping companies set up these programs to drive business success. I can point to dozens of examples of successful accelerators, but there are a lot of misconceptions about how accelerators fit into overall corporate strategy, and for a while the overcrowded market made a skeptic out of me.
How did it all start?
Accelerators became popular with programs like Y Combinator (now based in Silicon Valley), a network of successful entrepreneurs and investors who created a program to give new and first-time entrepreneurs the resources to succeed a lot faster. Great success stories like AirBnb, Coinbase and Dropbox were Y Combinator companies.
Then a lot of people jumped on the bandwagon over the last 15 years. Governments decided to foster economic development and entrepreneurship. Players from all walks of life, not just venture capitalists, or even entrepreneurs, and eventually not necessarily even experienced doers who know how to build a company, all declared themselves fit to lead accelerators.
Today, the accelerator industry has a very high noise-to-signal ratio where many people just talk the talk. They haven’t been there or done that, don’t really understand what it means to build or support a company, or even create meaningful partnerships; and in some cases don’t even understand that partnerships —that generate mutual value to founders, investors and corporate partners— are the whole point, and are what really fuels startup acceleration and defines it.
Today, the accelerator industry has a very high noise-to-signal ratio where many people just talk the talk. They haven’t been there or done that, don’t really understand what it means to build or support a company.”
How does a corporate pilot accelerator create value?
Before I joined Highline Beta, I told our Chief Product Officer, Ben Yoskovitz that at some point in the past, I heavily questioned any accelerator’s ability to do just that. At the time, many under qualified players had entered the field, and some continue to do so until this day.
I wondered how I could build an accelerator that any entrepreneur would be out of their mind not to join. After surveying over 50 entrepreneurs through 1:1 interviews, I came to the conclusion that the best approach to put to test was flipping the classic model on its head: Instead of creating accelerators that fill entrepreneurs’ calendars with what is often referred to as “dense” or “intense” programming, workshops and meetings with countless mentors (which is not a bad thing, but very time consuming, and in most cases unnecessary), we focused on creating programs that save entrepreneurs time through pairing them with subject matter experts; programs that are designed to act as an extension to the entrepreneur’s current team to boost existing execution efforts on tactical and strategic fronts starting with sales and extending to all areas of their business including talent and customer success. The uptake was great and the results were phenomenal as we tracked real business growth metrics, such as revenue growth and operational efficiency metrics.
I wondered how I could build an accelerator that any entrepreneur would be out of their mind not to join. After surveying over 50 entrepreneurs through 1:1 interviews, I came to the conclusion that the best approach to put to test was to flip the classic model on its head.”
Fast forward to my conversation with Ben; what struck me, was that Highline Beta was doing everything possible to build towards a similar outcome but with another added layer of practicality and high-value creation, and that was through supporting entrepreneurs in executing paid pilots with some of the best corporate partners they could work with in their respective industry.
By building accelerators that solve the big challenges in each corporate partner’s industry, Highline Beta remains obsessed with value creation for both corporate partners and entrepreneurs.
By building accelerators that solve the big challenges in each corporate partner’s industry, Highline Beta remains obsessed with value creation for both corporate partners and entrepreneurs.”
Without these win-win deals, accelerators have trouble building legitimate value where corporate partners get real solutions to tangible problems, and where startups acquire legitimacy and real industry validation to their value proposition. And without such win-win deals, it is almost impossible to appeal as a “no brainer” opportunity to entrepreneurs in this day and age.
We make sure we fully understand industry problems before we design and build a corporate pilot accelerator to solve such challenges through external innovation with startups. Then we leverage our global network to find startups whose product will directly solve our corporate partners’ needs and we couple that with giving the startup founders all the support and expertise they need and all the experience we can supply to increase their likelihood of their pilot’s success and their company’s success overall. We also found that having been in their shoes before and knowing what it means to face business building challenges differentiates the value we add.
We make sure to fully understand industry problems before we design and build a corporate pilot accelerator to solve such challenges through external innovation with startups.”
This is the key to successful corporate accelerator value; not just hype wrapped around good intentions, but a purpose-driven, results-oriented approach that matches corporate partners facing a serious need with entrepreneurs offering real solutions and systematically managing the relationship in between.
A corporate pilot accelerator creates value by working with corporate partners and entrepreneurs alike to make sure both have the resources they need to get the best results possible.
To learn more about our corporate pilot accelerators, connect with us anytime.