Symbiosis between large corporates and start-ups is critical if Europe is to gain the competitive edge

November 17, 2015 | Source:

“Something has clicked within the start-up ecosystem,” says Emma Sinclair, co-founder of EnterpriseJungle and the youngest woman in the United Kingdom to take a company public at the age of 29. “The symbiosis between large corporates and start-ups is now critical if Europe is to gain the competitive edge.”

Emma’s comments come after innovation leaders from 70 corporates, prominent start-up businesses and influencers from across the start-up ecosystem, attended the first summit in the United Kingdom on the growing impact of corporate acceleration. Disrupting the Ecosystem: Rise of the Corporate Accelerator, hosted by Wayra UK – part of Telefonica OpenFuture’s global innovation network – gathered those organisations already innovating through the acceleration of start-ups as well as those wishing to enter the space.

“Corporates are absolutely helping Europe accelerate because entrepreneurial spirit is no longer limited to being in the start-up ecosystem – it exists within large enterprises too.” Emma acknowledged that corporates, who often get a bad reputation for being ‘intransigent’ and ‘sluggish’, are now placed at the ‘forefront of innovation’ as entrepreneurialism is something people want to do ‘from the top, all the way to the bottom.’

“Anybody that’s tarnishing a partnership between a start-up or a large enterprise is either being shortsighted or there’s nothing in it for them. In many ways, you get back what you put in.” Emma concluded.

Support for corporate acceleration wasn’t only reserved for those operating in Europe. Influencers from across the Atlantic were invited to give insight and guidance on how Europe’s biggest companies could further strengthen the start-up ecosystem.

“I see corporate acceleration as a natural evolution within the start-up ecosystem.” Says Jeff Hoffman, global mentor and founding member of, who believes that although corporate accelerators are making good progress in Europe, they are still a relatively new phenomenon.

“There’s still sometimes a big culture clash in corporates and start-ups working together. What I’m seeing now is similar to boxers in round one – feeling each other out and asking how do we work together. But there are starting to be some really good examples.“ Jeff concluded.

Nancy Fechnay, Partner at Flight VC and Interim Director at Techstars, gave a fresh perspective, given she only arrived into the UK less than a year ago direct from Silicon Valley.

“If Europe is to rival Silicon Valley, we’re going to need more corporates involved. The reason Silicon Valley has become a success, is because they have three main things working for them: research and development from great universities; technology entrepreneurs flocking in from around the world and then you have the big corporates. Europe has the entrepreneurs and education institutions but the one element that’s lacking here remains the corporate side.”

Some of the biggest themes discussed on the day were the importance of partnership in strengthening the ecosystem as well as the part the European Union has to play on nurturing the relationships start-ups have with corporates.

“Collaboration is key because acceleration in Europe is still quite recent.” says Agustín Moro, Head of Strategic Partnerships at Telefonica OpenFuture. “There’s a terrific job being done in Brussels by the EU on financing start-ups and bringing major players together for the good of the ecosystem. For example, OpenAxel is building a bridge between entrepreneurs and corporates and is a proof-point to the influence a partnership between the public and private sector can have.”

Robin Wauters, founder and editor of, had some closing words of encouragement for those corporates looking to launch their own programmes.

“There’s three things corporates in Europe can do to help start-ups: First, give start-ups access to their own ecosystem i.e. their own partners, customers, maybe their own distribution channels, like with Telefonica’s 300M customers. Second, resources: corporates have venture capital arms, which is another way they can invest large sums of money into businesses. Europe has always been at a disadvantage when it comes to late-stage funding. But if corporations can step in at that level and partner with venture capital firms to provide that late stage funding, then it’s a win-win situation. Third, M&A: Typically companies that buy European start-ups are American. So corporates should buy companies; bring talent in-house and bring new thinking into the organisation.”