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Global
Partnerships

Top corporate incubators [2023]

August 7, 2023

Marc Hauser

Marc Hauser is a founder, investor, and innovation enabler with over 15 years of experience in banking and fintech. He is currently the Head of Europe at Tenity, where he helps startups scale their businesses and connect them with leading financial institutions.

Top corporate incubators [2023]

If you are looking to set up your own corporate incubator, you’ve likely faced these challenges:

  • You may have found your internal incubator very resource-intensive requiring specific knowhow you may not have.
  • You may lack in-house experts to identify the right startups and get deal flow.
  • You are unsure about your incubation strategy and want support in defining your innovation goals.

I’ve spent 15+ years in the innovation space, have led multiple corporate incubators and currently help manage the Tenity incubators that we do twice a year. 

Based on my experience, I’ll share my thoughts on how to approach a corporate incubator strategy. Also, I'll provide a list of the top corporate incubators worldwide including the one I work with at Tenity. 

Here are topics I will cover: 

1. Top 5 corporate incubators

  1. Tenity
  2. Rise by Barclays
  3. Wayra by Telefonica
  4. Pegasus by Microsoft
  5. SAP.iO Venture Studio by SAP

2. Corporate incubators vs. corporate accelerators: what's the difference?

3. What does a typical corporate incubator process look like?

4. Why work with Tenity as a corporate?

5. Corporate incubator example: Julius Baer web3 incubator

Note: At Tenity, we have set up bespoke incubator programs for our corporate partners including programs for the layer 1 blockchain Klaytn and private bank Julius Baer. To find out more about our incubators and other programs get in touch with us. 

Top 5 corporate incubators

If you’ve done research on corporate incubators, you will have noticed there are many types of innovation programs called incubators. In the upcoming sections, I'll clarify the terminology and the explain the difference between incubators and accelerators, but first, here's a list of top corporate incubators: 

1. Tenity 

Tenity is a global innovation ecosystem that supports corporates through the entire innovation process, from initial ideation to direct collaboration and strategic investing. Part of what we do is helping corporates set up their own corporate accelerator or incubator.

We began our own journey as part of an innovation ‘spin off’ at SIX, the Swiss Stock Exchange. Although we now operate as an independent fund, our background and experiences at SIX still shape how we run our incubators and other programs. We know firsthand the pain points and key tactics of corporate innovation. 

At Tenity, we do a lot of different activities within innovation: we run our own incubation program, we help corporates with their incubators, we run our own early-stage fintech fund, and a lot more.

In terms of corporate incubators, here are two examples of corporate incubators we’ve run for our partners:

We partnered with Julius Baer, where we facilitated the exploration of web3 use cases with a cohort of startups in the wealth management space. We engaged multiple different Julius Baer employees from different departments, and the focus topics included client experience, product and the Metaverse.  

We also partnered with Klaytn, a layer 1 blockchain, by creating a corporate incubator that invites startups to build on their platform. The program aims to attract top builders and connect them with industry experts to build on the Klaytn blockchain.

When we partner with a corporate, we take care of all the entire program from start to finish. This ensures that both the corporate and the startups have freedom to collaborate. With the Tenity incubator you get:

  • Access to our scouting experts and deep network of 2,000+ early-stage startups in our database.
  • Workshops to help structure the program and define appropriate KPIs.
  • In-person training for the selected startups including masterclasses and 1-1 mentorship sessions.
  • Demo Day where all startups present their solution. 

Learn more about our corporate incubators here: Tenity programs

2. Rise by Barclays

Rise is a global fintech platform established in 2015 with the goal of building a community of founders to drive innovation for Barclays in the financial sector. Startups in the Rise network benefit from access to various services and perks: including support from Barclays, a co-working space, and connections to investors and mentors. On average, Rise helps Barclays sign 60+ deals with startups each year. 

3. Wayra by Telefonica

Wayra connects early-stage tech startups with Telefónica to create innovative solutions for the Telecommunication company. With 7 hubs in Latin America and Europe, Wayra specialises in areas including IoT, Big Data, AI, Cybersecurity, Fintech, and Blockchain. 

Wayra has 400+ startups in its current portfolio, with over 100 directly collaborating with Telefónica. Startups participating in the network receive perks including discounts on software packages such as Hubspot and GitHub. 

4. Pegasus Program by Microsoft 

The recently launched Pegasus program is a 2-year incubator, an extension of Microsoft's Startup Founders Hub. It welcomes startups from the Founders Hub network and companies already building customer-facing products on the Microsoft Cloud platform. 

To join, startup teams must show early product-market fit and revenue traction. Successful  applicants to the program receive support, including being paired with a vertical lead to generate sales and a dedicated cloud solution architect to provide technical assistance. The Pegasus program focuses on areas like healthcare, AI, retail, and cybersecurity. 

5. SAP.iO Venture Studio by SAP

SAP.iO offers startup programs to foster collaboration with SAP and provide access to their extensive network and resources. 

Participating startups receive go-to-market and technical support, as well as additional perks like access to an alumni network and a top talent network for recruitment and special discounts and promotions. SAP.iO focuses on sustainability, finance, and emerging disruptive technologies such as AI, machine learning, and blockchain.

Corporate incubators vs corporate accelerator: what's the difference?

Corporate incubators are also often described as corporate accelerators. They are often used interchangeably to describe the same activity, but at Tenity we have developed our own thesis to help distinguish the two. Let me define both incubators and accelerators with examples of programs that we have successfully run: 

Corporate incubators: explore new business ideas with early-stage startups 

Incubators focus on supporting early-stage startups, usually in their pre-seed stage and before any new product development. The main goal of a startup incubator is to generate new ideas and experiment with new technologies. I like to think of the incubator model as a way to build muscle and resilience for the future. 

These programs typically have longer durations to allow time for in-depth exploration and experimentation. For example, our incubator program with Franklin Templeton runs for two years.

Corporate accelerators: fast-track growth with late-stage startups 

Accelerators focus more on supporting late-stage startups, providing them with tools and support to quickly scale and validate any PoCs (Proof of Concepts). For example, last year we launched an Insurtech accelerator in collaboration with the Isle of Man government. During the scouting phase, we focused on finding startups that had already developed a proven enterprise-ready solution and were looking for growth opportunities.

The duration of an accelerator program is typically no longer than 3 months, and in some cases, it can be as short as 3 weeks. 

What does a typical corporate incubator process look like?

As I mentioned earlier, the structure of a corporate incubator will vary depending on your objectives as a corporate. It could be 2 years long, it could be global, it could focus on one very specific subsection of financial services or only a certain type of startup. That’s what’s great about setting up your own corporate incubator: you have the freedom to design a program that would work best for your company.

We help corporates set up their own corporate incubators and accelerators – but we also, in addition, run our own Tenity incubation programs twice per year. These are independent and not linked to a specific company. As a corporate, you can also have the opportunity to invest as a Limited Partner (LP) into our our early stage fintech fund as well.  

When we begin working with a corporate, here’s what the process generally looks like:

1. Define your goals via an exploratory workshops 

During these introductory workshops, our innovation team gives you the insights and current trends related to your chosen topics. We ask you to outline specific challenges you face and with that information, we can define clear KPIs and milestones for the program and develop an ideal startup persona.

Also, we work to identify an internal "innovation champion" within your organisation. An innovation champion plays an important role in promoting the program and encouraging employees to openly collaborate with the startups. 

2. Start scouting and sourcing deal flow

After defining your ideal startup persona, we begin scouting startups to take part in the business incubator. The Tenity ecosystem is a major advantage here, as we have access to a large pool of over 2,000+ early-stage startups in our database. Also, our presence in key hubs across Europe and Asia, including Switzerland, Singapore, Nordics & Baltics, and Spain, allows us to connect with promising startups in the local ecosystem. 

Once we have gathered a list of relevant startups, our expert scouts review their applications. From this pool, we select a preliminary group of startups, and then we conduct interviews to finalise the participants for the program.

3. Explore use cases and mentor selected startups

Once the incubator program starts, entrepreneurs go through workshops, mentoring sessions and collaborative work. For example, if the corporate’s objective is to find a startup to collaborate with, we’ll put together an intensive training program carefully designed to prepare them for collaboration with the corporate partner. This training takes place in-person at one of our hubs. For example, for our ongoing Franklin Templeton incubator we bring the startups to 80RR Fintech hub, a co-working office space in Singapore.

Throughout these sessions, startups go through mentorship sessions, explore Proof of Concepts (PoC) and are provided with coaching and guidance on their business models. In these sessions, you collaborate directly with the core business teams, providing them with insights into your objectives and expectations. The startups, in turn, benefit from exposure to your expertise and resources, enabling them to develop use cases that are tailored to your specific needs.

You can through all our programs and see how they work here: Tenity programs

4. Celebrate the results at a Demo Day

In the final week, we usually organise a Demo Day where the startup teams present their ideas and solutions. It's a great chance for you to showcase the program’s results to internal stakeholders and bring visibility to the program

If you interested in attending on of our Demo Days, register on our events page

corporate accelerator program example
The process of setting up a corporate incubator program

Why work with Tenity as a corporate?

Since 2016, we have successfully facilitated over 100+ collaborations between corporates and startups. Given that we were born from corporate innovation, our background and deep experience means we know how to create a program that can deliver strategic impact. 

Here are a few reasons it makes sense to work us specifically:

Your corporate incubator will be bespoke to your needs

When it comes to succeeding with corporate innovation, it’s important that the programme is designed to meet your specific company goals. Each company has different innovation objectives and is at a different stage in their innovation cycle. You cannot productise open innovation: it’s important that your incubator is tailored to your objectives.

When we start working with a corporate, we spend the required time at the conception phase: understanding what your trends and needs are and developing a thesis that will help define the structure of the incubator programme.

Once that’s done, we take care of setting up the corporate accelerator from start to finish: doing the startup scouting, organising the masterclasses and matching startups with mentors. We handle all organisation and touch points of the program so as a corporate you won’t have to deal with the day to day management of the programme. 

You can leverage our deep knowledge of corporate innovation in financial services

As previously mentioned, we originated from an innovation initiative at the Swiss stock exchange, giving our leadership team firsthand experience of corporate innovation. 

We’ve experienced the challenges of fostering a culture of innovation at a company, and after 100+ collaborations, we know what successful corporate innovation looks like. 

Not only that, but we live and breathe fintech and financial services. Whereas other innovation ecosystems will work across many verticals and also do financial services – we only do financial services. This gives us more depth and breadth in our network and experience. 

You have access to a large pool of early-stage startups  

If you have doubts about the rationale behind your corporate innovation strategy, you can tap into the wealth of knowledge and expertise in our ecosystem: 

  1. Get the latest trends and insights from the fintech space.
  2. Observe the work and innovation of our network of early-stage startups.
  3. Network with founders and discuss their ideas at our demo days.
  4. Enter into direct partnerships with a strategically-relevant startup. 

Luigi Vignola, Head Markets at Julius Baer, one of our corporate partners, likened our startup ecosystem to an innovation “laboratory": 

“It’s a bit of a laboratory for us. We can throw in questions and see if somebody can come up with a smart solution without using too much of our own resources, which are largely committed to the day-to-day processes.” 

Finding the right startups on your own can be challenging, especially if you are not yet known as an innovative player in the market. Even if you are getting a steady flow of inbound leads, it's difficult to be certain they are the best fit for your strategy.

By setting up an incubator with Tenity, you get access to a pipeline of opportunities and expert scouts who possess in-depth knowledge of the technical and critical soft factors for startup success. Here is how we help you scout startups for an incubator program:

  1. Access our proprietary database of 2000+ startups. 
  2. Set up a program landing page to elicit applications. 
  3. Get vetted referrals from players in our ecosystem. 
  4. Leverage our deep knowledge of startups in our hubs. 

You can do more than set up a corporate incubator

As I mentioned earlier, there’s a lot more that goes into innovation than just setting up programs. Depending on what stage you’re at in the innovation cycle, it may make more sense to deliver on your innovation objectives in a different way. 

We see innovation through the lens of Learn, Collaborate and Invest.

Learn: you’re at an earlier stage in your innovation journey and are looking to learn more about innovation and how to implement it at your company. We can support you with:

  • Community events.
  • Executive events.
  • Startup database.
  • Lunch & Learns.

Collaborate: you’re later on in your innovation journey and are looking to partner or acquire startups. We offer:

  • Deal flow sessions.
  • Corporate incubators or accelerators.
  • Collaboration support for Proof of Concepts (PoCs).

Invest: you want skin in the game and to get financial and strategic ROI from your investments. We can help you with:

Corporate incubator example: Julius Baer web3 incubator

We’ve been working with Julius Baer since 2016, and the investment bank recently wanted to work together to do a corporate incubator to better understand Web 3.0.

It’s a 3 month program, and is focused on exploring use cases between Julius Baer and specific startups to combine the Web 3 and wealth management space. The applications were open till June 2023, and the program started at the end of August in 2023. It is set in Europe and Singapore, with a specific focus on distribution and product, client experience and wealth management. 

In this incubator, Julius Baer will be able to work with successful startups in the web3 space that have worked on specific use cases like retirement planning and automated digital advice. In exchange, startups also get exposure to Julius Baer’s network and build relationships with the relevant people.

Read more about the incubator here: Julius Baer Global Web 3.0 Program

What about a successful collaboration as a result of a corporate incubator? What does that look like? 

In 2018, Julius Baer and vestr, a graduate of a Tenity incubator, worked together to digitise AMCs. 5 years later, vestr has become a key player in the AMC market, secured CHF 10mn in financing and reached a trading volume of over USD 1 billion. You can read more about the collaboration here: How Julius Baer and vestr successfully built a platform to digitise AMCs

Top corporate incubators: set up a program with Tenity

Corporate incubators are a great way for corporates to develop new business ideas and test use cases for new technologies. 

At Tenity, we provide a solution by offering to set up and manage the incubator on your behalf. Our team of expert scouts and program leads handle the day-to-day operations, allowing you to focus on driving innovation with your startup partners.  

If you want to know more about Tenity and how we support our corporate partners, get in touch with us.