In the end, this reflects two observations. On the one hand, the start-ups that respond to calls for projects are still thinking that the incubator or corporate accelerator is a « dead-end zone » between start-ups and market lines. On the other hand, it must be acknowledged that the players in the market lines imagine that the incubator or corporate accelerator is just an intermediary for identifying start-ups. After all, it seems that it is the market lines that sign the contracts with the start-ups in the end…
However, the role of the incubator or corporate accelerator is much more essential, even unavoidable. It is indeed in this median structure that commercial partnerships will be built, the holy grail for the start-up, AND (but could I say…) one project among others for the market line concerned…
The most relevant comparison that has come to mind over time is that of the work of the architect. The architect, according to the Larousse dictionary (1) is a « Person who designs the planning, realization and decoration of buildings of all kinds, and directs their execution ». Certain categories of architects can inscribe their art in the behaviour of men whether at home or at work. They are called interior architects. In my profession, it is interactions that are to be built. In the case of an incubator team or a corporate accelerator, it seems to me that this is the work of a designer who creates interactions between the start-up and the interns of the large group. The team of the incubator or corporate accelerator directs the execution of these interactions and tries to make its art part of the daily professional life of the two targeted actors (start-up and interns of large groups). This team is then responsible for the achievements between the start-up and the interns of the large group, with a dual purpose: on the one hand to implement a new innovation factory based on start-ups for the large group, and on the other hand to enable the start-ups to find their market. These are major challenges for both sides.
We all know that the direct relationship between a start-up and a large company involves a major mortality risk for the start-up. The old adage « Time is money » is never as true as it is for the start-up compared to the large company. The time factor, while increasingly important for the large group, is nonetheless manageable in view of the war treasure it has accumulated. For the start-up, time is just a fatal factor. It is important to move forward quickly and with the minimum consumption of resources. The relationship between the start-up and large groups is important because it is not a question of being effective, but of being efficient.
Interactions therefore constitute a major « raw material » for managing this efficiency in the labyrinth of the large group. This raw material is not a palpable material, of course. Nevertheless, working this material has palpable effects, to say the least, if it is done efficiently. Indeed, it is a question of questioning each time on the relevance of the interaction to be implemented. Unnecessary interaction is tantamount to weakening the overall system. It would then be as if the architect were to introduce a material unsuitable for building the house. In other words, in the event of (unavoidable) bad weather, the house (the partnership) itself would collapse. In order to practice incubation or corporate acceleration, it is not a question of impregnating and verbalising ready-made methods in books (Lean start-up, etc.), but of approaching the reality of the start-up / large group relationship by considering the structural and sociological dimensions of the actors, in short, the socio-organisational dimension. It is necessary to anticipate problems and to draw or combine in real time simple practices to deal with them, with the help of the actors on both sides who will facilitate exchanges. The team in charge of incubation or corporate acceleration must draw perspectives, lines of force, then create friction zones, which the literature calls Field Configuring Events (FCE).
ECC (or Field-Configuration Events (2) – FCE) is a concept from the Anglo-Saxon literature that could be translated in simpler terms as « patterns of interaction ». ECCs are temporary events, such as trade shows, professional meetings, business ceremonies and more generally all configurations that bring together concerned and useful people. These events « force » start-up and market line actors to meet, coordinate, collect useful information and also to meet other related actors who can provide support. It is these CTAs that will somehow give tangible body and consistency to the useful interactions.
The results will be all the more significant as the architecture of interactions, carried out with the intelligence of people and situations, will be part of a working system. I will have the opportunity to describe it in detail soon…
(2) Lampel & Meyer, 2008