June 30, 2015
By Sergio Romo, Founder of Investomex
Accelerators are all over the place in the midst of what seems a golden age for entrepreneurship and venture capital. Acceleration programs start to become the standard for innovation everywhere and corporations want to run their own. It is great for PR and business development. In some cases, it’s good for tax benefits as well.
The question is who should run corporate acceleration programs? Should companies run their programs in-house? Or should they hire professional and renowned accelerators to manage them? 
Companies like Nike, Sprint and Disney recently hired TechStars to run their acceleration programs. I personally think this is the best approach for many companies today.
Conflicts of Interest
Big companies and startups have different agendas and goals. Corporations pursue higher revenues. Startups strive for product-market fit. Startups need to wait at least five to ten years to see any possibilities of success.
Instead, managers of big corporations tend to have short-term incentives (such as yearly bonuses). Their decisions target greater revenues. They can’t wait for ten years to get tangible returns. Unfortunately, while this is perhaps the right thing to do it also prevents big companies from innovating. 
The performance of the portfolio startups in a corporate acceleration program can’t be measured by the same standards of a big company. By hiring an independent accelerator, big companies can focus on what they do best and leave their innovation initiatives to an expert.
Clash of cultures
A big company culture is too strong against the culture of a little startup. The corporate bureaucracy and agenda can kill a startup if its culture is not well defined. Startups need the freedom to create, try things, fail and innovate in an agile environment. Their focus should be product-market fit and growth not to fit in the culture of a big company.
This is counter-intuitive to companies who think their capabilities are tools the startups need. However, those capabilities, although valuable, are not essential for a startup just yet. Where would AirBnb be today had the founders participated in a Hilton’s accelerator program?
Physical space and program-content independence is essential. Corporate programs need to be created around the needs of the founders not the big corporations’.
Currently, some accelerators take a big chunk of their money to cover their operation expenses. Others depend on government grants but ultimately they all have less money to invest. By partnering with corporations, the business model of accelerators can become more sustainable. Accelerators can use the funds entirely to invest in more companies, build a track record and increase their success odds while their operation expenses are paid by big companies in the early years. 
Almost anybody can start an accelerator today but staying in the game is much more complicated now. Accelerators need to find their value proposition. Money, perks and office space is not enough anymore.
The real prize
The name of the game for big companies is not huge returns. Their prize is to be always one step ahead of their competition. To see the future. To have preferred access to markets that could turn out to be huge in the future and replace theirs.
 There is a recent article “Corporate-Run Startup Accelerators: The Good, The Bad And The Plain Ugly” by Jon Bradford, co-founder of Tech.eu and managing director at TechStars London http://bit.ly/1qeHArt. It is really good and worth reading.  This is the Innovator’s Dilemma that Clayton Christensen talks about in his book under the same title and can be applicable to the acceleration programs of big corporations.  Y Combinator is the black swan in the accelerators game and probably none of the above applies to them. But in my opinion they’re not an accelerator. They’re more of a network and a small ecosystem for startups in their early stages.Thanks to Camila Lecaros, Anna Heim and Fernando Rivera for reading