Embracing the startup culture has become something in between a buzzword and a mantra for large and middle-sized corporations over the past few years. Moving fast, breaking things, and being lean is often perceived as the solutions of the traditional corporate problems—sluggishness, bureaucracy, and general lack of innovation.
That word – innovation — is the centrepiece of every corporate's roadmap that outlines the ways of embracing the new ways of working. Startups and entrepreneurs play a huge role here as well, being seen as the source of fresh ideas that can revive and rejuvenate an older company.
In the Netherlands, corporates employ a number of different strategies in working with startups. The approaches include growing startups inside the company or partnering with existing ones, running acceleration programs or investing in early-stage projects, etc. In this overview, we haven't looked at the fintech sector that appears to be quite active in bridging corporates and startups—that's a topic big enough for a separate story.
It's also not realistic to compile a full list of things the Dutch corporates do with entrepreneurs, since the landscape here changes by the day. It might not be that important after all, though. The question is which way the startups can get as much value as possible, without giving up too much of their freedom or equity.
Working with accelerators
Arguably the most straightforward and least expensive way for a corporate to enter the local entrepreneurial ecosystem is to partner with an existing accelerator, or commission and sponsor a whole acceleration programme.
Most of the existing Dutch accelerators have corporate partners, which open up their pool of resources, mentors, and network to aspiring startups. The value for corporates here is also quite obvious: to have a keen sense of the pulse of the startup ecosystem, be able to partner with startups before someone else does, as well as size up potential acquisitions.
For startups, especially those aiming at markets traditionally dominated by large players, working with corporates early on can be quite beneficial as well.
"A good example is Canard, a startup from one of Startupbootcamp's recent programs," said Lars Crama, chief commercial officer at InnoLeaps and Startupbootcamp's e-commerce mentor. "They looked at the problem of navigational aid lights calibration at the airports, which has to be done every couple of months. So they came up with the idea of doing it with drones. Even for a senior startup team of Canard, it would be difficult to get permission for a test flight on an airport, but since the Schiphol airport was a partner of the program, it was really easy to make a connection. Right after joining the program Canard did a pilot at the Lelystad airport that's owned by Schiphol."