Big businesses benefit from start-up style working

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May 02, 2017

Big businesses are taking stock of organizational structures which are usually associated with start-ups in a bid to maintain a competitive edge.

As such, many notable corporates launching their own accelerator programs across Europe.

A start-up accelerator is comprised of a number of small, young companies, which receive funding and mentoring, typically within a shared physical space. For start-ups, participating in an accelerator program not only boosts funding resources, but also provides valuable connections with potential investors, buyers, and partners. For more established companies, however, setting up and funding an accelerator can add a dynamic operational layer.

“Essentially, this is a more dispersed structure of business,” explains Tom Carroll, Head of EMEA Corporate Research at JLL. “The digital age has ushered in greater mobility, a rise in freelance culture and an entrepreneurial spirit among the generation now entering the workforce. Together, these forces have contributed to a decentralization of ideas.

“Larger organizations are not always best placed to innovate from within. They are realizing the need to embrace technology-led start-ups that are disrupting so many industries,” he adds.

Accelerating towards the future

From travel to finance to real estate, established businesses are embracing accelerator programs.

Barclays launched Rise in New York in 2015. Billed as a “physical and virtual global community for fintech innovation,” the program has since spread to seven cities, including three in Europe: London, Manchester and Vilnius. Rise also houses the Barclays Accelerator, a competitive 13-week program designed to push forward the brightest innovations in fintech.

For Barclays, this collaboration offers the ability to buy into specific technologies or successful ideas.

IBM’s Alpha Zone accelerator, based in Israel, focuses on start-ups with expertise in Big Data Analytics, Cloud, Mobile, Security, Internet of Things, Machine learning and AI across industries from travel to media and Telco.

In the travel industry, Lufthansa led the way in 2014 with their Innovation Hub, which was conceived as a “start-up within the company.” Aiming to move decentralized innovation into the core business, the program focuses on customer experience as well as aviation technology, and incorporates airline staff alongside selected start-ups.

With plans to invest 500 million Euros by 2020, the Innovation Hub has already given birth to the likes of travel concierge service Mission Control, and pan-airline online check-in platform AirlineCheckins.

Similarly, Airbus, based in the south of France, launched the Airbus BizLab in 2015 and continues to offer six-month programs in aerospace. Start-ups benefit from the expertise of Airbus’ own ‘intrapreneurs’ while small companies can experience what it takes to work in and with a large group.

The new business club

While many of the accelerator programs are based in-house, others are housed in purpose-built developments. Level 39 at Canary Wharf is Europe’s largest technology accelerator, mixing space for accelerator programmes, including those run by Accenture, UBS, Intel and D’assault Systemes with individual start-ups – many in the finance, retail, and cyber-security sectors.

For many fledgling companies that struggle to find space because they lack established credit records or cannot commit to long lease lengths, corporate-backed start-up accelerators can be a viable solution. “There’s an opportunity to adapt to the format in a much less risky environment,” says Carroll, “thanks to the involvement of more established and experienced businesses.”

Accelerators – and their ways of working – are having a far reaching impact on the wider business world, including how companies manage their office space.

“In leveraging accelerators, businesses are driving innovation in a variety of ways,” says Carroll. It’s not just about the forward-thinking ideas that come out of accelerators, it’s also about creating collaborative workspaces that provide the right environment for people to develop new innovations. And with the benefits of a collaborative workplace becoming clear, it’s in turn putting pressure on landlords and investors to change the way they think about the physical space of the office.

According to JLL’s recent Workplace, Reworked report, workspace should offer a mix of designated working areas and hot desks, along with spaces dedicated to community and socialising, in order to nurture innovation. “These are open, collaborative locations that facilitate the exchange of ideas and allow different organizations to work together,” Carroll explains.

Indeed, in the modern workplace, innovation and collaboration increasingly go hand-in-hand.