Corporate Venturing, the company accelerator

This helps to link up large companies with start-ups, improving innovation inside large companies and reducing the risk for entrepreneurs

In the business world there is wide consensus on the importance of innovation in order to remain competitive. Nevertheless, in recent years two ways of achieving this have developed so that now there are two independent systems that play according to different rules.

On the one hand, there are the start-ups, young companies that take risks and that often die off after a short time, although if they do last they can introduce radical change. On the other, there are the internal departments of established organisations, which are usually devoted to gradual innovation: safe changes in line with the company's activities.

Very often a gap born of distrust can appear between these two worlds: the small companies are cautious about working with large companies in case they are eaten up by them, and the large companies are not clear about the rules of the game used by the entrepreneurs. To bridge this gap, for some time companies in the Anglo-Saxon sphere have chosen to create unified relationships between the parent company and the start-up. This is what is known as corporate venturing.

Any medium-sized business can create its own corporate accelerator, but the global examples in this field are the large corporations. The most notable examples are Google, with Google Ventures, or Hotusa, with Hotusa Ventures, and in Spain, Wayra, from Telefònica. In Catalonia, this practice is still not well-known, but some companies have begun to make progress in this direction. Such is the case of Fluidra, which for a year and a half has had Fluidra Accelera, a company accelerator, which works independently to find innovative start-ups in the water sector.

 
 IWorld Expo Low Carbon, a Fluidra project for a swimming pool in a hotel in China. Ceded  

The multinational company is a pioneer, but soon other companies will join it, as the Generalitat's Departament d'Empresa i Ocupació has put an aid package into effect through the agency for company competitivity, ACCIÓ, which advises medium-sized and large companies on how to implement this model. The subscription period is open until October 30, with the accelerators due to appear throughout 2016.

The aim is to generate more successful cases which, along with Fluidra, can serve as examples so that other Catalan companies choose this model of innovation. "People with ideas have always come to the company, but we did not treat them in an organised way. Moreover, we saw that including these projects into Fluidra's innovation structure was to sentence it to death, because start-ups need more agile processes," says Xavier Tintoré, corporate director general of Fluidra.

How does Fluidra Accelera work?
The first thing that those in charge of the accelerator do is to filter the initiatives they get from putting out so-called calls, which are industry-related fairs. Among the projects they get, they say, there is a bit of everything: from ideas to companies that have pilot projects underway. Tintoré highlights the fact that Fluidra Accelera does not offer funding to these start-ups, but rather services that help them grow. "We provide them with the knowledge of all our departments, in a practical and agile way, for a period of between three and six months," says the director.

During this time, the accelerator company has to define its business plan and "take the company to a point from which it can start to generate revenue." Tintoré points out that this is when the first round of funding is organised, in which Fluidra can acquire minority stakes.

An example of the six projects that Fluidra Accelera has taken on since it started is a start-up that came up with a system of "technoturbines", which allow for the generation of electricity by taking advantage of the excess water pressure circulating through water pipes.
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