December 10, 2012

The rise of vertical accelerators

When in May I was talking with Aziz about this, I wasn’t sure that this was going to happen, although I thought it would make sense in the long run. Now it seems that my little prediction is becoming reality: Nike just announced an Accelerator, in partnership with Techstars. (disclaimer: I’m a mentor at Techstars Cloud in San Antonio, TX).

I think this comes from the following: 1) There is a huge need for Enterprise companies to innovate. 2) Innovation has never been easy in Big companies. 3) Accelerators are a way to speed up innovation (when done right).

As a consequence, it didn’t take long for companies to figure out that they needed to change their structure a bit, in order to “capture” innovation. One way could be exactly to leverage accelerators to do that.

In the long run, this might also be a way to retain top talent. Here in Silicon Valley (especially in San Francisco, where I live), the top talents are heavily attracted by hot startups, with the promise of exciting jobs, stock grants that will make you rich if the startup goes IPO, and less barriers to innovation. (However, it generally also means less structure, and therefore more chaos, than the traditional company.)

To attract and retain those people, big companies might want to bring some of these benefits in-house; company-powered accelerators, such as this one just announced by Nike, might be the answer.

Let’s see what happens in the coming months. My humble, personal opinion is that companies should embrace this model, and that whatever sector starts doing this, the consequence will be greater innovation, and the fall of some barriers to entry. Who knows? We’ll see.

By the way, if you’re not already doing so, I suggest you follow Brad Feld’s blog: lots of precious bits that you don’t want to miss.