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Is your brand ready for the digital age? How startups can help

Digital disruption is knocking on the doors of corporates in all sectors. Companies like Kodak have missed the transition from an analogue into a digital age. To avoid the same fate, more and more corporates are starting to set up startup programmes. Our new guide to successful corporate-startup collaborations shows how and why working with startups makes business sense. One benefit: startup programmes can be a key tool for corporates to recast their brand in the digital age. 

Why an innovative brand matters

For at least three reasons:

How startup programmes can help

Telefonica, Accenture and Microsoft are among those corporates that have built digitally-savvy, innovation-driven brands with the help of their startup programmes, in various ways:

Attracting future employees

Telefonica's startup programmes not only help the telco stay on top of new trends and technologies. Programmes like Talentum, an initiative that offers access to digital education and Wayra, an accelerator for digital startups, signal to future employees that the company cares about innovation and digital futures. A key reason to set up these programmes was that ‘we want to be seen as more disruptive and innovative, because nobody wants to work for a dinosaur’ (Gary Stewart , Director Wayra UK). By now, even policy makers, from national to European level, are turning to Telefonica for advice on digital legislation and policies.

Telefonica's top tip for other corporates: Never run startup programmes as a CSR activity but link them to your core business. Otherwise they will disappear sooner or later.

Engaging clients with an innovative offer

Accenture, a technology consulting firm, also runs a 12-week accelerator programme for fintech startups. In difference to other accelerators that take equity and focus on making their cohorts investment ready, the Fintech Innovation Lab has a different focus, as Samad Masood (Open Innovation Lead, UK & Ireland) told us. 'We are not investing in startups, we are helping them to sell to our clients', including Barclays, JP Morgan and Goldman Sachs. Accenture thereby provides its multinational clients with 'innovation as a service', by offering them not only acccess to new technologies but also insights into future market trends. 

Accenture's top tip for other corporates: Decide what your strategic intent is before starting to work with start-ups. Working with a range of early-stage companies before you have clearly identified your own long-term strategy can end up being a distraction for both you and them.

Building new partnerships

For Microsoft, helping startups makes good business sense. ‘We want startups to thrive’ as Rebecca Duffy, Global Programme Manager at Microsoft told us, ‘if we help these future business leaders be successful, they become some of Microsoft’s strongest advocates and partners.’ Therefore Microsoft provides entrepreneurs with free resources through its BizSpark digital platform and 100 Microsoft Innovation centres, as well as a 3–6 month accelerator programmes based in Berlin, London, Paris and other cities across the globe. 

Microsoft's top tip for other corporates: Let entrepreneurs lead your startup programmes. They have the right attitude and mindset to overcome some of the biases a corporate might encounter when approaching startups.

For more tips on why and how to work with startups, read our guide to successful corporate-startup interactions.

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Photo credit: relexa hotels via Compfight cc



Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Valerie Mocker

Director, Development & European Digital Policy

Valerie and her team focused on helping policy makers, corporates, entrepreneurs and society make the most of the digital transformation.

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Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Simona Bielli

Head of Programmes – Nesta Italia

Over the last year, Simona was working on a new exciting project that led to the foundation of Nesta Italia.

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