Filiz Sarah Gärtner

How to successfully incubate startups – a guide for corporations hungry for innovation

Yes, we know the road to innovation can be tough. But it’s more important than ever to rescue businesses and bring them safely to the path of digital transformation. There sure are several ways to reach this goal. But examples of money pouring into R&D that left the companies empty-handed show that business incubation of startups is the better way for corporations to develop new technology and business solutions. Startups have the disruptive power and lateral thinking ability that are often missing in established companies. And they already come with the advanced, game-changing innovation that might be the solution to your problems! But in order to achieve a fruitful co-operation, a fertile ground is necessary. So better read on and learn how to successfully incubate startups in our quick guide for incubators!

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How to successfully incubate startups – #1: Goals

Successful incubation is a win-win situation both for startups and incubators. But a working co-operation needs common goals. That’s why it is crucial to make it a priority from the beginning to hold honest, open conversations with your partner. You should not only share your strategic objectives but also ensure that your partner really understands them. If you pull together, nothing can stop you from reaching the goal of groundbreaking innovation.

How to successfully incubate startups – #2: Resources

On your side of the incubation equation should stand an investment in resources: your company provides not only money, but also information and know-how, as well as support by your employees and equipment. This can seem like a tall order. But you need to make the investment on your side of the equation in order to get the desired outcome. The incubated startup will provide its share in return: the innovation and new business solutions your company needs for a sustainable development.

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How to successfully incubate startups – #3: Freedom

You generally incubate startups because they think outside the boundaries of your established corporate processes. So it’s obvious that you need to offer the startup freedom and independence for them to achieve this. Nevertheless, a business incubation should always be a synergy of the best of both worlds. Your know-how will be needed by the startup to be a guide in difficult situations. A study by our partner accenture found that the most successful incubators had their CEOs involved in the most important decisions. Thus, it’s crucial to find a healthy balance between freedom and guidance in the incubation partnership.

How to successfully incubate startups – #4: Flexibility

This does not only include financial flexibility for investments. Even more important is the internal flexibility. The challenges of big firm–small firm collaboration mostly regard the mindset: different cultures, different attitudes about sharing intellectual property, different concerns about risk sharing, you name it. In order to make successful incubation possible, your company needs to open up and adapt to a certain degree – otherwise the collaboration might fail before it even begins. Also, your company has to be able to implement new solutions, which requires a willingness to change.

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How to successfully incubate startups – #5: Failure

Willingness to change? Flexibility in your corporate culture and workflow? Yes, successful business incubation brings challenging transformations with it. And yes, it can sometimes fail. But to strike a new path is always risky – yet the only way to move forward. Therefore, it is important for incubators to keep the possibility of failure in mind and also to cover their backs. Still, readiness to change is crucial to incubation and needs to be weighted out with the risks. Just keep in mind: nothing ventured, nothing gained.

Bottom line: business incubation is like jump in at the deep end

As incubator, your company invests quite a lot for a fertile collaboration. It may be frightening and uncomfortable, but soon enough you will see your partnership grow and find that the outcome outweighs your investment. Imagine you are jumping into cold water – and then feel yourself vitalized and energized. Jump in at the deep end, even if are frightened, may be your best choice.

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