Editor’s note: This is part 2 of an excellence series on Incubators and accelerators. Read first post (1/2) here. Link repeated at end of this post.
Incubators and accelerators
‘Common law’ separates incubators from accelerators: well-known incubators are Paris Region Lab, accomodating 150 start-ups over Paris, or La Ruche, a coworking space for ‘social business’. Incubators offer coworking spaces, where several start-ups work concurrently, transforming idea into elegant design and slick customer experience, defining their value proposition, and embodying it into preliminary prototype, MVP or demonstrator.
Accelerators assume that you have a product, and initial customers base: the direction is clear, you are ready to embark to the second step, searching for the multiplication effect: boosting sales, distribution, marketing, and branding, in parallel with sharpening a knocking busines model.
Numa is the unmissible location in Paris for digital start-ups. Like the different stages of a rocket, it covers the progressive steps of a project, from the free meeting space at the ground floor, coworking at the first floor, design thinking and open innovation with large corporation with Data Shaker at the second floor, to the third floor and the Camping, the well-known accelerator created in 2011. The last floor is the large Terrace dedicated to Demo days, and various events and meet-ups. It’s truely a vibrant building for networking and creativity. Numa has recently refined its coaching proposition, extending its support from idea to product shaping, even targeting start-ups having succeeded in their fundraising, and this across all industries.
Laurent Lipiner joined Startinpost in 2014. Startinpost is the corporate accelerator of La Poste, French mail service. It helps innovative start-ups with a proof of concept and revenue over 500 k€, and focuses on 3 thematics: e-commerce, local services and connected objects, and digital trust. With a 12 m€ budget (of which 8 m€ funding), it’s one of the largest corporate accelerator in Europe.
“Startinpost is both simple and complex” anlyszes Laurent: simple in its value proposition of coaching start-ups, leveraging all the strengths of La Poste (17 000 points of presence, 2 000 salesforces, 100 000 mobile workforce) to open channels and reach customers, with a 10 multiplication factor target, and complex as achieving business synergies, and finding a common interest between start-ups and La Poste takes time. Cooperating with start-ups is part of La Poste Digital Transformation plan over its 3 businesses: mail, delivery, and banking. The challenge for Startinpost is to be as agile as the start-ups, and to translate innovation’s attributes from the outside to the inside. Human factor is essential. Startinpost stands out with its ongoing coaching (at the opposite of cohorts mode), over one year, for almost no fee, with a direct access to market and customers.
A 3 months experimentation phase can be funded by Startinpost, while a business sponsor is actively looked for. If the result is positive, the acceleration phase works on embedding the offering, intense deployment, and marketing exposure. Its’ a win-win: sponsor promotes the benefits of the new offering, and every effort is made to demonstrate the value generated. The offering takes part into the sales speech. The end of the experimentation is favourable to an autoevaluation of the entrepreneur, which will result in bespoke coaching, with an appropriate range of mentors and consultants. At the end of the roll-out, La Poste has a call option on the fundraising : might it be exerciced, it will take place with a much better knowledge of the start-up.
5 start-ups are being accelerated since the last 6 months. Success stories allievate progressively internal resistance. Startinpost scouts the market in every direction, conferences as well as tech.eu, to feed the pipe, and on behalf of La Poste business units.
Orange Fab is a network of corporate accelerators initiated by Telco company Orange. It covers various locations: San Francisco, Paris, Warsaw, Asia (Tokyo, Seoul, Taipei), Tel Aviv, and Abidjan. It offers a 3-months accelerator program, searching for startups with existing products, looking for growth and distribution opportunities, mainly in the telecom and digital industries.
Let’s hear the testimony of Pascal Latouche, head of Orange Fab France. Orange Fab France has accelerated 7 start-ups so far, and accomplished 3 partnerships with Orange business over 5 start ups. The objective is to reach a 100% success rate. Only startups that seem attractive for Orange business units are accepted: the primary focus of the coaching is to put the start-up in a position to achieve a partnership with one of Orange line of business. Then, because Orange Fab France is part of an international network, a second step is to export the start up in different regions. “It is not acceleration, it is propulsion!” says Pascal. There is no acceleration fee. Every kind of French start ups are welcomed at Orange Fab France, since a business unit is ready to work with the start-up, detecting an opportunity or willing to initiate a pilot. Mentors bring technical skills (IT and Telco infrastructure), distribution channels, packaging of the start-up offering with telco services, relationship with media, and include investors.
As Inès Dartiguenave puts it: “in 2015, Lisbon was promoted « European capital for entrepreneurship » and it is totally deserved!” As a matter of fact, this booming city recently unveiled tremendous start-ups. Lisbon Challenge can proudly presents itself as «Europe’s most international acceleration program »: among the selected start-ups, more than 70% come from outside the country, and top mentors are also joining this vibrant ecosystem from all over the world. This accelerator is part of Beta-I, which can be compared to the NUMA in Paris, especially as this organization inaugurates a 9-floor building entirely dedicated to entrepreneurship and innovation. Keep an eye on this accelerator, acting at a European level.
MEST (Meltwater Entrepreneurial School of Technology)
Here is how Fast Company sums-up perfectly MEST genuine proposition: “Described by tech blogger and Ushahidi cofounder Erik Hersman as a “finishing school for tech startups,” MEST trains future entrepreneurs from Ghana and Nigeria by putting them through a two-year program that blends an MBA-style education with training in software development. Founded by Norwegian software entrepreneur Jørn Lyseggen, the school also invests in the best business ideas and teams that emerge from the training program, providing developers with $50,000 to $250,000 in seed funding for their businesses. MEST selects around 40 top university graduates each year, representing less than 2% of the applications it receives. Since its inception in 2008, more than 200 entrepreneurs have graduated from its program, and it has invested more than $15 million in African startups. Two of its Ghanaian companies—Saya Mobile, which provides a WhatsApp-style messaging service for feature phones, and ClaimSync, which digitizes medical records—were acquired by foreign technology firms last year. In the future, MEST plans to develop a hub of incubators across the continent.”
Another pioneer in entrepreneuship is the coworking space iHub of Kenya, one of the most advanced African country in digital innovation, the birthplace of mobile money m-pesa. Nairobi’s Innovation Hub for the technology community is an open space for the technologists, investors, tech companies and hackers in the area. This space is a tech community facility with a focus on young entrepreneurs, web and mobile phone programmers, designers and researchers. The traditional story tells that legendary Ushahidi and Brck ventures have their origin in this creative space.
More on accelerators?
- Have a look at ‘Accelerator Summit conferences videos: https://numaparis.ubicast.tv/channels/#european-accelerator-summit
- Also: 20 most active tech start-ups incubators in India: Bangalore, Mumbai, and Delhi.
My viewpoint encompasses 4 angles:
- Networking: is the accelerator relevant to your industry, and can he provide contacts, open doors, facilitate business relationships? Do the Alumni, events attracting PR/Media, other companies in class, investors attending Demo Day, and further investing, match naturally your activity, or will you be more like ‘lost in translation’ in this accelerator surroundings? Is there an international roadshow or network? Review success stories and failures, and contact Alumni to get an accurate view;
- Mentoring: what is your opinion on coachs and mentors? Are you comfortable with the relationship you have with them? Do you anticipate ‘whiplash mode’ or coaching mode? Do staff and backers have experience in your industry and entrepreneurship, do some Angel Investors serve as mentors? Assess time spent with mentors, and corresponding value, and compare to the time left to develop customers base, and improve product.
- Capital and funding: how much equity is worth the acceleration? Less than 6 to 8%? What is the funding success rate? Is it a win-win collaboration? David Cohen, founder and CEO of Techstars says: “The accelerator should invest and only win when the company wins, this is what defines a true accelerator.”
- Services: where is the location, is it aligned with your ecosystem? do the accelerator offer offices, space, IT, and maybe more importantly, follow-up after funding?
Future trends: international networking, open innovation, and ideation
Does the future of accelerators rely on vertical markets, linked to local ecosystem, and international networking? That’s some of the 10 evolutions foreseen by Bryan Bulte, a cofounder of Seed Sumo, a Texas-based start-up accelerator: “Start-up accelerators will collaborate to share resources, money, and know-how to help each other succeed. We are seeing this with:
- Global Accelerator Network: GAN is a network of 50 accelerators across six continents in 63 cities that Techstars launched as part of the White House Startup America Initiative. GAN is the ‘global champion of the seed-stage, mentorship-driven accelerator model and its goal is to support the top accelerators that grow top companies’;
- Another networking initiative is Atalanta, which proposes a transnational accelerator networks acceleration in Europe;
- Copass (sprout at La Mutinerie) is a worldwide federation of coworking spaces;
- StartupBootcamp: industry focused (Fintech, Mobile, Smart Transportaion and Energy, E-&Mcommerce), it operates globally with 10 accelerators, and 9 locations.
Open innovation with corporations is another hot topic, and we see a soaring diversity of collaborations. Two recent quirky examples:
- Corporates set-up physical innovation spaces named ‘Colab’ where “start-ups can work effectively, and where corporate emissaries can understand startup needs first hand and work to provide value through connections, mentoring and resources” suggests Ricardo dos Santos. This looks very much like the Hub:raum, the incubator implemented by Deutsche Telekom in Berlin. The space can be shared “between startups and internal innovation teams of the same company – best to learn to innovate like startups by innovating with (or at least alongside) startups!”;
- BNP Paribas Yoann Jaffre just opened Innov&Connect, an accelerator associating 11 start-ups with ETI (companies between SME and large corporations) for co-experimentaion, and design of creative projects; teams can be hosted in dedicated spaces WAI (We Are Innovative) stimulating creativity. In the same trend, some major Finnish companies are coaching 7 start-ups in a Corporate Venture Program.
Finally, creativity gets also accelerated on ideation platform like Imagine with Orange, both a crowdsourcing platform for innovation, and a launchpad for entrepreneurs: share your ideas, Oraneg is helping you to give them life! And innovation & FabLab ‘learning by doing’ waves are entering into schools and universities with FacLab, CampusFab, Téléfab, PMCLab, and De Vinci Fablab(w)… Game is on!
Previous episode: Start-up, find your accelerator coach (1/2)
image credits: Numa, Startinpost, Lisbon Challenge, Orange fab, Mest, IHub
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Nicolas is a senior VP at Orange Innovation Group. Serial innovator, he set-up creative BU with an international challenge, and a focus on new TV experiences. Forward thinker, he completed a thesis on “Rapid Innovation”, implemented successfully at Orange, further developed in his writings. He tweets @nicobry