By Magdalena Kron, Barclays
Back in December 2013, we announced our first London Barclays Accelerator, powered by Techstars. Since then, we’ve spread to Cape Town, New York and Tel Aviv, and we’ve just finished our ninth.
We’ve learnt a lot over the years, so our Accelerator looks quite different these days. But there are six differences we would highlight in particular, as examples of best practice.
Match startups to your challenges
Our first Accelerator was only focused on mentoring and teaching startups. But we soon realised that we could help them more if they could bring new ideas into our business. We could aim to become their first customer. This way, not only do startups get a better chance at succeeding and scaling up their ideas – but we get to bring better value to our customers.
But it’s hard for a bank to bring in disruption for the sake of disruption. So we began narrowing down our criteria – to make sure the startup would solve one of our business challenges. It’s a narrow line. We don’t just want faster horses, we want the Model T Ford. But go too broad and you end up with jetpacks that just aren’t practical.
Get in early, but not too early
While you want to make sure you’re working with startups that are fresh – before Series A – if they’re too fresh, it becomes difficult to build up their business.
In our first programmes, we started too early. It became difficult to get their idea working or finding them a market – the picture of what they were offering was too blurry when they joined us. We couldn’t quite tell what it would be, or how it would help. You don’t need to wait until it’s crystal clear, but just enough that you can understand what the picture is.
Change your processes
One mistake we made at the beginning, was to treat startups like suppliers. They just don’t have the time and people to jump through all the regulatory, legal and corporate hoops. You need to find ways to improve those processes specifically for startups. How will you get sign off?
Ideally, you want to bring all the stakeholders and decision makers together at the same time – so they can all sign off at once. This can really cut time. In fact, we’ve got a 12 week process down to just three.
Give startups a direct line to the right people
More than anything, you need to help startups navigate the political and corporate world of your business. If they’re not speaking to the right people, and have direct contact with them, then they’re never going to be able to get their technology working.
But it does more than that. Your people also get exposed to the startup mentality, and begin to realise that there’s a different way of working out there. You can even use this relationship to quickly pilot ideas. So make sure startups are directly talking to those that can really push out the technology.
Keep in touch, after the programme
The Accelerator can only ever be the beginning. If you want something to be successful – for it to permeate throughout your company and make real changes – you can’t just leave it at the demo day. They’ll need new contacts, they’ll need help complying with regulations, they’ll need a hand to keep growing.
We learnt early on to group together the startups. Those that need us to keep checking in weekly, monthly or yearly. If you don’t – you can never really accredit their success to you.
Learn and evolve
We realised that if we wanted to create an Accelerator that worked for startups – we had to think like them. To change and adapt. To keep iterating our ideas. To experiment and try new things out.
As long as you’re doing that, the rest you’ll pick up on the way.
Magdalena is the Head of Rise London and VP Open Innovation for Barclays