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Corporate accelerators: fostering innovation while bringing together startups and large firms

Abstract

This paper aims to examine the experience of hub:raum, the accelerator program of Deutsche Telekom, to deduce potential success factors. In today’s fast-paced world, large companies strive to keep up with the disruptive changes in their markets brought by innovative startups. In face of these challenges, the paradigm of open innovation encourages firms to use internal ideas and external sources of knowledge to advance their innovation output (Chesbrough, 2003). Yet, in practice, this is much easier said than done, particularly when large firms engage in partnerships with startups. This paper is based on interviews and academic collaboration with hub:raum. From the five years of experience since the foundation of hub:raum, one of the first German corporate accelerators, the authors have seen five key success factors: transparent and aligned goals, an independent team of startup advocates, a large and committed external network, top-management backing, long-term objectives and performance indicators. This paper is based on the case study of hub:raum. There are several limitations to this approach. Hub:raum has a clear industry focus in the information and communications technology industry and also acting international has a strong German and European focus. Based on the identified five success factors, executives working with or designing accelerator programs can significantly increase the chances of success of these kind of programs. Constantly working on the right alignment of these factors with the overall objective of the incubator program is the key task of the management. Designing and running corporate accelerator programs more successfully will also help to enable more startups to join forces with corporates, creating more jobs and developing successful product innovation. The paper is based on working for five years closely with the hub:raum management, a series of interviews and longitudinal study of this specific accelerator program.

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