Dealing with the current boom of corporate accelerators, last post focused on the perils for both start-ups and corporations of this innovation fostering model if not based in a truly collaborative goodwill. We repeat: the key factor for avoiding the opposite effect wanted in the first place it’s not so much in the model itself but in how it is implemented. “Killing” innovation it is not necessarily an unavoidable side effect of these types of corporate accelerators. Their results will be all about the potentially negative role played by pressing corporate agendas and the often unescapable uneven relationships established between corporations and startups.
But corporate accelerators may present a variety of formats. It is possible for big stablished companies to get involved in the creation or participation in an innovation ecosystem where new ideas, value proposals or business models are much difficult to get locked in a single corporation view and needs; in which new companies could germinate and mature without the dictate of just one big main player. We are talking about more neutral and industry-wide accelerators funded or/and powered by not just one but several and diverse partners, accelerators that allow startups to connect with multiple potential customers and points of view.
Rock Health could be considered as an example of this kind of corporate accelerator. Created to fund and support entrepreneurs working at the intersection of healthcare and technology, Rock Health presents a portfolio of companies tackling problems in mental health, smoking cessation, hospital and payer administration, and diabetes, in addition to many others. Rock Health support their companies on a wide range of business issues, including fundraising, go-to-market planning, customer development, business development, contracting, pricing, marketing, communications, and PR. But, as repeatedly declared by the accelerator managers, the main interest is not so much in acting for startups as advisors or mentors but as an early employee.
As a distinguishing element from other accelerators, Rock Health has a list of no just one but several corporate strategic partners with equal rights and obligations in which are included not just pharmaceutical companies as Sanofi, Genentech (Roche Group) or Boehringer Ingelheim but also health service providers as Kaiser Permanente and retail pharmacy CVS, and hospitals as Boston Children’s or Brigham Women Hospital and others.
Another approach for a corporate accelerator to avoid the perils of a biased big partner’s agenda is not to focus on the development of a particular product or technology but on a more general and intangible set of outcomes. For instance, a pull of talent, insights or innovations based on marketing and branding. This could be considered the case of The Brandery, an accelerator based in Cincinatti deeply connected to Procter & Gamble but focused on fostering marketing skills useful outside the specific relationship with P&G.