500 Startups wants to help corporations understand how to work with startups. In collaboration with Pilot44, the firm has created a four-day course for executives called “Corporate Startup Innovation Unlocked,” from July 11 to 14. Attendees will hear from entrepreneurs and others about how to direct their innovation efforts in order to stay relevant in the current business climate.
“Corporate startup innovation isn’t new, but more and more corporations around the world aren’t able to realize how to tap into the startup ecosystem,” Zafer Younis, a partner at 500 Startups, told VentureBeat in an interview. “They’ve tried before for a while, but with more disruption from startups, they’re seeing this become a higher priority.”
Although 500 Startups receives visitation requests from Fortune 500 companies — from representatives wanting to connect with the portfolio companies — very little follow-up takes place. “Most of the discussions fail and waste a lot of time on both ends,” Younis explained. He and the rest of the firm’s team want to bridge this gap, thereby making it easier for collaboration (and perhaps acquisition) to take place.
“Corporate Startup Innovation Unlocked” is designed as a seminar for up to 30 people and is geared towards providing direction to anyone looking to “find the right startups and engage with them in a meaningful and accelerated way.” 500 Startups doesn’t have an ideal attendee in mind — it could be a vice president of innovation, chief innovation officer, partners at consulting firms, or anybody else — no one is too junior or too senior.
Each day will feature 2 to 3 hours of theory and framework, provided by the folks at Pilot44. Afterwards, speakers from around the industry will be brought in to look at case studies and share both the good and bad experiences they’ve had working with corporations or startups. Some of the speakers include P&G, Nestle, Cox Automotive, Google, and Microsoft. Younis said there’s an optional fifth day of the program during which representatives from startups and corporations will come together at a mixer and will also be able to participate in one-on-one meetings to discuss specific pain points and challenges.
Corporations who are interested in participating should plan on solving these three pieces of the puzzle: What’s the corporate business challenge that’s trying to be solved by working with a startup? Can you identify the startups that are working in your specific industry or can help overcome your challenge? How do you establish partnerships, measure them, and report back to your superiors about how the startup has helped you?
Silicon Valley is home to many companies that have set up shop, eager to tap into the innovation revolution taking place. Samsung, Target, Orange, Wells Fargo, and others all have a presence doing either research and development or simply looking to work with startups. But many others that don’t have the resources on the ground also look to this area, and 500 Startups wants to be a centralized resource for them.
Traditionally, corporations have reached out to venture capital firms like Andreessen Horowitz, Google Ventures, or Norwest Venture Partners to find interesting startups. But 500 Startups believes it can offer more options, thanks to its portfolio of more than 1,000 startups. According to managing partner Dave McClure, while this program is aimed at helping make acquisitions happen, it’s also about giving corporations a view of what it’s like to work with startups. “We’re trying to match up dollars and product with speed to market,” he shared with us.
In addition, he said that 500 Startups is able to exploit an “untapped opportunity with matching small companies with big companies,” and he added, “we’re in a good position to make it happen.”
The first session will take place in San Francisco, and Younis hasn’t decided yet whether to expand it to other parts of the world (as 500 Startups has done with its Distro Dojo program). He said that it’ll depend on where the most interest and attendee applications are coming from: “If we see a large number of applications come from a specific geography, we may consider it.”
While the ulterior motive for 500 Startups may be financial — to encourage acquisition of its portfolio companies — it also wants to help corporations develop skills that they can use to identify and engage with startups to benefit their own company.
Applications for “Corporate Startup Innovation Unlocked” are being accepted now. The cost is $6,500 for the early bird tickets and $11,750 for the regular seats.
Updated as of 10:24 a.m. Pacific: This post has been updated to reflect a drop in early bird pricing.
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