Thinking Outside The Square: Corporate Accelerators

As some of you know, as a serial entrepreneur and disruptive innovator, I'm a big believer in the concepts behind Clayton Christensen's Innovator's Dilemma, which explain how disruptive innovation almost always takes incumbents by surprise. Over the past ten years there have been hundreds of cases where incumbents have been completely surprised by the creative innovation of the world's startup communities. The basic idea of the Innovators Dilemma, if you're unfamiliar with it, is that disruptive innovations often hit the market by in ways that incumbents dismiss something that doesn't fit their understanding of the market, and thus the incumbents tend to ignore it. Incumbents tend top brush it off as being too inferior or too insignificant or too low-end, thus justifying them maintain their current direction. What they often fail to take into account are the basic trend lines, trends of momentum that show adoption rates that devastatingly transform industries. The disruptive innovator tends to improve their product at a much faster rate, leveraging their superior agility and customer development engagement, in a process of continuous growth and value creation to a point where it's actually good enough to shift an entire industry's sense of value and quality. When you look at innovative markets throughout the past decade, you can see it happening over and over again. Amazon's Kindle, Square Point of Sale, PayPal, Spotify, and the list goes on. So it highly encourages me when I read of incumbents that are making a change. In the recent issue of Distro, they dived into Nike's recent Nike Plus Accelerator. Spawned within Nike's Digital Products division, now famous for the Nike+, Nike's mission is to bring motivation and inspiration to every athlete in the world. Nike+ launched in 2006 as a collection of digitally enabled products and services to motivate all athletes to exceed their potential. The Nike+ Accelerator, powered by TechStars, the #1 startup accelerator in the world. Mentorship-driven seed stage investing for web and software companies. Nike's accelerator will hosted 10 companies for a three-month, immersive, mentor-driven startup accelerator. The focus is to allow companies to leverage the Nike+ platform, and NikeFuel, to build offerings that inspire and assist people to live more active, healthy lifestyles.

Nike+ Companies


How It Works

10 partner companies will be chosen and given the tools and support they need to succeed:

  • $20,000
  • Access to the Nike+ APIs, Nike+ mobile SDKs, and Nike+ FuelBand Dev Kit (Beta) - you will be among the first in the world to receive this access
  • A Nike+ FuelBand for each team member
  • Tech support from experienced developers who've built companies, or built with Nike+ Application Programming Interfaces (APIs)
  • Code and solution reviews during the program
  • Mentor sessions with Nike executives and leaders in the start-up community
  • Two Investor Demo Days: one at the Nike World Headquarters and one in Silicon Valley


Real Access to Decision Makers

At the end of the Nike+ Accelerator, each team will present to Nike executives, mentors, angel investors, venture capitalists, and tech industry leaders.

Rise of the Intrapreneur

Corporate accelerates aren't new.. but Nike's did get a great deal of attention as its one of the first to execute a partnership model with a known, proven accelerator, in TechStars. In the past year, I've worked closely with the team at Lean Startup Machine, as they build momentum in the corporate ideation space. Helping companies through intense learning experiences that aim to overcome the Innovators Dilemma, and validate ideas with minimal wastage. The results always astound the program sponsors, as the methods develop their own internal 'Intrapreneur' movement, energizing staff to tackle new challenges, market problems and new innovations. Resulting in companies making serious investments in experiments with acceleration programs. It really is amazing to watch a team of people who may have very little interaction in day-to-day business, form around an idea and passionately dive it forward. Corporate accelerators are worth looking into for many of the benefits discussed around vertical accelerators. Over the coming year/s, I’m expecting more corporate accelerators to emerge, as internal catalyst for driving change, innovation and new products. The investments required are relatively small, and many blue chips are scrambling for new revenue streams in the rapidly changing markets. If the small guys are out-innovating them, why not try to attract them and raise them as your own? The most successful models balance the leverage of the corporate muscle, while giving intrapreneurs or partnered entrepreneurs the agility and space to run at the pace of a startup. I'd love to hear from other companies around the world that are either already venturing down the ideation or acceleration path, or might be interested to explore it as a strategic direction.