Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Commercial and Corporate Innovation

Designing and running programs for established organisations or corporations can be a great way to build strategic partnerships, source mentors, build internal capabilities, and diversify revenue streams.


This section explores the different services that you as an intermediary may be able to offer a commercial or corporate client. It then looks at how to find potential customers and, once you’ve found them, how to develop the right services and programs to suit their needs.

What You Can Offer

There’s a range of services that incubators/accelerators are well placed to offer to commercial or corporate clients, but it is important to have an understanding of the ways your team can create value (via services or programs) before engaging.

This might come in the form of clearly defined services or programs, or simply capabilities.

Practical Tip

If you want to push corporates to do more, you can run an event to raise consciousness.

Target it at CEOs and bring speakers to inspire the audience. Ensure you are talking to people who are at the right level of seniority (those that have the power to make decisions) who have got the budget to spend.

Some examples are:

  • Delivering training (on topics like design thinking, innovation, or agile management – areas of practice that your team is confident in)
  • Running start-up surveys, research efforts, or scouting
  • Designing and running internal incubation and acceleration programs for intrapreneurs
  • Designing and running external incubation and acceleration for entrepreneurs they might want to partner with or procure from
  • Venture building of potential partners/suppliers
  • Strategic partnerships/sponsorship


Canadian Telecom Company

  • 1.

    Helping them to find early-stage mobile health companies to partner with (it is a long-term strategy of theirs).


    A telecom company found out from surveys that Canada is an aging population and its customers are thinking more about their long-term health and their health as a long-term population.


    They believe part of the solution would need to come through their mobile phones (thus creating a driving force for the Telecom company).


    With this information in hand, the company then:


    – Went out to the ecosystem to look for local/national/regional startups that are addressing some of those mobile health questions (to fit the innovation needs of the corporate)


    – Could be for partnering and/or acquisition


    – Required experience in finding good companies and evaluating for the fit and needs


    Source: Spring

Identifying and Finding Your Customer

Once you understand what you want to offer the next step is to identify and engage potential clients.

There are three key aspects to this:

  • Build genuine relationships (find your advocate/champion in the client and establish a strong connection)
  • Understand their context (take the time to explore pain-points and problems, and to identify causes and possible solutions)
  • Find areas of alignment (identify areas of mutual interest that can be explored, or capabilities that are complementary to needs)

Start with global corporations such as financial services, tech and communications, extraction, manufacturing, and tourism.

Think about the customer personae. Who is your target customer/client?

The general manager of human resources or Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR) may or may not be interested in your offering vs passionate leader-agitator who is a junior manager but is enthusiastic to align with them and influence inside the organisation?

Try and enter through CSR or HR strategy with an offer of outsourcing, problem-solving, innovation or shared value.

Have a coffee with them and ask who should we look to reach out to, who do they work with and what kind of problems they are trying to solve, what kind of partnerships do they do (contact organisations and ask for advise on how to get into the sector). They could potentially turn to you and say this is us, and what can you offer us.

Go where they are. CSR, HR or Strategy Conferences, publications, professional networks, leverage an opportunity via a donor.

Practical Tip

  • Cultivate relationships
  • Start small and show your value
  • Think creatively about clients (e.g. explore sectors that are strong in your area, even if the alignment or opportunity isn’t immediately obvious)
  • Charge the right rates
  • Dream big

Pricing Your Work

When starting to work with different clients and offer new services it is important to develop an appropriate pricing model. This should reflect your costs and the client context. Before pricing services/programs understand your costs and develop a pricing model that incorporates these as well as management fees and contingency, to ensure there is some profit. Consider talking to management consultancies or other professional service firms in your area to get an insight into their rates.

Also consider treating your first client as a potential case study or reference point that could help you win work in the future, and charging less to get the client. As it can be difficult to increase rates, we urge some caution with this approach.

Some steps for determining pricing include:

  • 01.

    Understand your costs

    Understand everything you are paying for and look at the market to use what your competitors are charging

  • 02.

    Look at Market Pricing

    What are people paying for the same or similar product/experience? Set your price below that to get business or higher to state yourself as a premium product/service.


  • 03.

    Look at Value Pricing

    Look at the value of the product/service to the customer. If you can communicate and advertise on the value and reach those customers with a value offer, you’ll be able to win over your customer base.


    This can also be “value” in terms of the impact your product creates for the world (e.g. Patagonia – high priced product that people will buy because of its social and environmental impact).

Practical Tip

Understand your hourly rate, your daily rate, margin, etc.


Think about how you can recruit costs with value-based pricing for the amount of lead time that you put into the work to secure the client as well and the other work that you do that you are unable to charge for (build buffer).

Internal vs External Incubation and Acceleration



  • Internal

    Corporations pay you to run an incubator or accelerator exclusive to their staff with no external call for companies or entrepreneurs.

    Corporations pay you to run an incubator or accelerator exclusive to their staff with no external call for companies or entrepreneurs.

  • External

    Corporations pay you to run a specific incubator or accelerator, often themed with an external call for entrepreneurs.

    Corporations pay you to run a specific incubator or accelerator, often themed with an external call for entrepreneurs.

Internal or external is chosen by the nature of new products or services; match on skills, market/customer; risk, governance. This tells you the answer as to whether you’re working on something inside the organisation with intrapreneurs and existing staff or whether together you’re establishing something separate.

It can be a combination of their culture and their goals/objectives. Some companies or organisations may want to protect their intellectual property or some want to drive culture change.

Six steps for running an incubator or accelerator program with a corporation:


  • 01.

    Articulate the problem

    Help them to articulate the problem(s) or opportunity(es) they have. This helps to grow your skill around asking and engaging insightful and leading questions.

  • 02.

    Run an ideation process

    Be sure to have the right people in the room and make it an open process.

  • 03.

    Find the “Gold”

    Prioritise (using 3 to 5 priorities), gut feel, democracy vs specialist knowledge.

  • 04.

    Crystalise their thinking

    Through market/customer tests and rapid iteration design. You must have the facts and data on the market, competition, and deep customer understanding. Throw idea after idea and keep designing before you pilot. This saves money and helps you to be faster later.


  • 05.

    Run a pilot or pilots

    Don’t stay in the design phase for too long. Pilot and do short sprints to learn quickly.

  • 06.

    Commence prototyping

    Duplication, triplication and then further scale into performance, or scale through more customers (depending on what the scaling is).


Internal Incubation: Disability Services Provider

  • 1.

    Articulate the problem = Employment for people with a disability. Ran a 3-day explore with the company to understand the problems, what they want to solve, market insight etc.


    Run an ideation process = Focused on people with disability (PWD), employers, staff, training organisation.


    Find the “Gold” = A model developed around the technology of training, in-house SE that employs, with external employment as the final goal.


    Crystalise their thinking = Interviews of PWD and employers. It was all about their skill sets and what they know.


    Run a pilot or pilots = Started the first training.


    Commence prototyping = Graduates moved into a social enterprise and company started the process again. Duplication was planned as well as scaling at other geographic locations.


    Source: Spring


External Incubation: Global Software House

  • 1.

    Articulate the problem = Indigenous Australia, I Billion Lives (CSR Program). Best idea of transforming difficult circumstances of people on the planet so they can touch 1 Billion Lives positively.


    Run an ideation process = CSR team, TDi team, IBA and Indigenousssocial enterprises (brought networking strength to the table).


    Find the “Gold” = Ideation using the company’s idea factory and local Indigenous people.


    Crystalise their thinking = Interviews with Indigenous Business Australia (IBA) and Indigenous social entrepreneurs.


    Run a pilot or pilots = Held the first Idea Factory (hackathon) in Melbourne. Assessed and refined.


    Commence prototyping = Held the second Idea Factory in Sydney. ‘Boxed’ this process and made it available to all offices in the company.


    Source: The Difference Incubator



The types of sponsorship that are available to you and how you can go about getting it