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Founders, Looking To Accelerate? Here’s Why You Should Go Corporate

corporate accelerators

Have you ever wondered why Samsung was dubbed the most innovative company in the world in 2021?  Take for example, the way Samsung approaches decentralized corporate innovation – the company has a NEXT product team that drives in-house innovation, Venture team which invests in early-stage startups that boost Samsung’s technology capabilities, as well as a Mergers and acquisitions team that identifies and acquires innovative companies. Do you recall the Google 20% initiative which required employers to use a fifth of their time to work on side innovative projects? Well, that is how Gmail was incubated. 

Read on to find out which are the corporate accelerator programs and open innovation initiatives that open new paths for CEE tech entrepreneurs. 


Google for Startups Accelerator Europe 

In a nutshell: A three-month virtual corporate accelerator for tech startups across Europe and Israel. This program is focused on helping startups in Europe to prevent an economic slowdown in the light of the COVID-19 pandemic. In addition to mentorship and technical project support, the accelerator also includes deep dives and workshops focused on product design, customer acquisition, and leadership development for founders.

Who is it for: High potential startups with growing teams (10+ people), that are headquartered in Europe or Israel and are in the post-seed stage. Their solutions should be based on Google Cloud Platform, or have the potential to leverage Google products / technical expertise (e.g., cloud, leveraging large data sets, AI, and/or Machine Learning).


Visa Innovation Program 

In a nutshell: The Visa Innovation Program is a fintech pilot-centered collaboration platform that introduces startups to Visa, its clients, and partners. The corporate accelerator program allows fintech startups to fast-track their development by validating and implementing their solutions within Visa’s network. Besides mentoring and market access, the perks for startup perks include up to $200K worth of essential tools and industry data, Visa’s tech infrastructure, and API’s.

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Who is it for: For startups and scale-ups which have a market-tested solution, experienced team, and a solution that addresses the key challenges in payments of the program: Blockchain technology (e.g. crypto-currencies, NFTs, smart contracts), Open banking / PSD2, Digital wallets, Installments, and BNPL. 


Elevator Lab

In a nutshell: Elevator Lab is the equity-free corporate fintech accelerator of the RBI Group that supports the development of fintech scale-ups by providing them with experienced mentors and access to real business cases. The 4-month program allows startups to develop a pilot project by testing their solution in a real-life banking environment, provides mentorship, and supports participants with a dedicated PoC Fund. 

Who is it for: Elevator Labs is looking for solutions that align with the needs of the RBI Group to improve customer acquisition through digital channels. Each year the program runs different focus areas.  On focus are later-stage fintech startups with proven innovative fintech products and technologies. 


Bosch Startup Harbour

In a nutshell: The Startup Harbour is a 4-months program that offers early-stage startups mentoring support from Bosch Group experts and access to collaboration opportunities on real use cases and business. The idea of the program is both to help the development of startups, but also to be applied in specific business cases for which the Group is looking for a solution. The program is currently accepting applications and interested founders can apply before 31st August. 

Who is it for: The program is looking for early-stage startups in the following domains: Tech for sustainability measurement, Connected heat pumps, Sensor-based networks, Green-tech in manufacturing, Physical workplaces & metaverse, Cutting edge AI in self-learning products, Tech bringing transparency in supply networks, Tech to redesign people-building relationship, New technology for increased energy efficiency. 


HealthCare Lab 

In a nutshell: HealthCare Lab is an international corporate accelerator program for early-stage digital healthcare ventures in CEE and Southern Europe. The goal of the program is to connect, grow and nurture an international community of innovators, researchers, healthcare providers, and regulators and to commercialize healthcare innovation faster. HealthCare Lab is powered by industry leaders from Roche, a European platform for healthcare innovators EIT Health, and run by innovation experts from Civitta.

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Who is it for: The program targets early-stage startups from CEE and Southern Europe with technology-driven digital solutions which have a functional prototype with proven traction, paying customers, or investment. The program is also looking for experienced teams of at least 2 people with a background in business or technology development. The Bulgarian AI startup Kelvin Health won the Spring 2022 HealthCareLab challenge in the Screening and Early Diagnostics track. 


Orange Fab Romania

In a nutshell:  The program is part of the Orange Group and it was developed in partnership with How to Web as a startup accelerator to help entrepreneurs develop innovative products and distribute them both locally and globally. This project allows access to Orange and partners’ technologies, distribution network, and funding via the Orange Digital Ventures. 

Who is it for: The target areas are 5G and network of the future, IoT and connected objects, smart city and mobility, security, fintech, small retail, media and entertainment, health and lifestyle, people, and future of work, and digital education. Participants from previous cohorts include MorphL, ProductLead, and Bunnyshell. 


Startup Acceleration Program Europe 

In a nutshell: A 10-week accelerator program that offers participants mentoring by both internal Sony experts and external partners from the startup ecosystem. Сelected startups have the opportunity to receive a possible investment of approximately €50K in exchange for equity.

Who is it for: The program targets incorporated pre-seed and seed-stage companies, located in Europe, from the following verticals:  Video, Cloud Computing, Healthcare, Imaging, Artificial Intelligence, Sensors, Medical Imaging, Music Industry, Gaming Industry, 3D Printing, Food Robotics, Industrial IoT, Robotics Hardware, Robotics Software, Mobility, AgriTech, FinTech, Quantum Computing. 


Unilever Ventures

In a nutshell: Unilever Ventures is a stage agnostic program that covers seed through Series C and D. It accelerates the growth of companies by providing them with access to Unilever’s global ecosystem, assets, and expertise. The program offers flexible capital, investing from $500K to $15M. 

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Who is it for: Unilever Ventures targets beauty and wellness brands, commerce and enabling technologies, and B2B/Enterprise technologies. 


UiPath Immersion Lab 

In a nutshell: Immersion Lab is a tailor-made, one or two-day session with UiPath Automation Innovation experts, and product management teams, It is Romania’s Unicorn initiative to give back to the ecosystem. 

Who is it for: The corporate accelerator program targets both young startups or projects scaling up. It offers a personalized one-on-one session with the company’s experts and product management teams to experience the latest advances in RPA, AI, and Hyper Automation.

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Elena is an Innovation Reporter at The Recursive, an online media dedicated to the emerging tech and startup ecosystems in Southeast Europe. She is keen on sharing the innovation stories that shape the regional ecosystem and has a great interest in fintech, IoT, and biotech startups. Elena is currently finishing her Bachelor's Degree in Business Administration and Political Science at the American University in Bulgaria.