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A quick New Year’s shoutout to everyone with love and care for early-stage acceleration. 2018 marks year four of our METRO Accelerator powered by Techstars. Since the 2015 launch of our first Techstars program, we are (proudly) looking back across three years of building and running a bona-fide startup development system – a first for METRO, a first for our customers, and a first for the hospitality industry. Not bad!

Since program inception, our joint METRO Techstars team has attracted 40 formidable founders to trust us with their business building. On the way, METRO learned to become a dedicated early-stage investor, a passionate corporate mentor, and a powerful source for commercialization opportunity helping our startups grow.

For the 50+ year old multinational corporation that METRO is, three years of successful early-stage startup development support has been a rather transformative experience. With that – lessons learned, lessons shared – here’s what I believe is key to look out for if you are a founder looking to apply for our (or another) corporate program:

Build Relationships That are More than Transactional

Most corporate mentors you encounter during the program are likely individuals tied to a myriad of internal realities, complexities, and constant change. Tempting as it may be to assume s/he possesses a magic wand, at times it’s not as easy as it seems to unlock the large(r) organization. During the program, better you connect with your corporate mentors beyond your most ad-hoc request (say, to proof-of-concept your solution ‘today’), to create relationships made to get your emails answered, even months post Demo Day.

Learning Goes Both Ways

You may want us to but no, we don’t always know the answer to all your questions. To best deal with that, what good corporate programs (should) do is to help create a ‘safe space’ for mutual learning. As we work jointly through your company’s opportunities and complexities one issue at the time, we found outcomes prove best if everyone comes out smarter than going in. So, do keep challenging us as we will do the same. Let’s be honest. Often, both sides are in uncharted territory. So, let’s get jiggy with it, creating spaces for plenty a-ha and eureka moments enabled equally on both sides.

Ask, Does the Corporate Provide Robust Post-Demo Day Commercialization?

I firmly believe the difference between a good program and a great program is the corporation’s ability to provide commercialization opportunities beyond core 12-week acceleration. Think program-as-a-service versus program-as-a-lab. The former seeks to afford you a more permanent path to new customer acquisitions, following to the biz dev support during the actual program. To be sure – ‘free market’ forces in full swing – no corporate program will actually guarantee you new customer opportunities all the time. Hence, back to my point above, this is why establishing long-term corporatementor relationships is such an important thing.

Be Sure You’re Ready to Run with It                                

How much ‘homework’ is enough before approaching a corporate about piloting your product or service? Hard to say or measure, but we tend to know it when we see it. Above all, be comfortable asking uncomfortable questions in sometimes tricky corporate meetings. Having sat in many pitch sessions, don’t short-sell yet don’t over-hype. No matter what you are building, it’ll likely always be added to or otherwise be ‘under construction’. That is perfectly fine as long as you are honest about your offering’s strengths and weaknesses (to the degree you know of them). In other words, corporates or otherwise, it’s your audience’s trust in your judgement that is equally as important as promoting your product’s intrinsic genius.


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Andreas Wuerfel Andreas Wuerfel
Andreas is the Director of Innovation & Community inside the METRO Accelerator Powered by Techstars. Passionate about building long-term sustainable communities of innovation, Andreas is always looking for new exciting opportunities to help unlock startup success & support well beyond Demo Day.







  • Beth

    Nice! Insightful tips. This is more hiring-focused, but it offers hiring tips for fast-growing startups that they should know from day one (but don’t have to learn themselves now!), which is pretty cool: http://recruit.ee/bl-startup-hiring-tips-eb-bh

    • andreas wuerfel

      … I agree, Beth. ‘Team, team, team…’ starts with great hiring decisions

  • Jurij Radzevic

    Great article Andreas! It’s crazy how big companies are striving to progress and innovate. We recently published a blog post on 100 Most Innovative Large Companies of 2018 for our company:

    https://valuer.ai/blog/100_most_innovative_large_companies_of_2018/

    You can find in the article the biggest companies and their ways of innovation.