How Keep Your Startups on Track: Kapsch Shares Honest Learnings From Factory1

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Richard Asher Writer at Pioneers.io

With the Demo Day for the second Kapsch Factory1 global accelerator program coming up in Vienna tomorrow (June 18th), the 127-year-old global technology company has just published some of its learnings from the first edition. Their white paper is a refreshingly honest piece of work, with plenty for curious corporate innovators to chew over. It’s the result of an eight-month analysis of Factory1 by Kapsch TrafficCom Head of Corporate Development Marcus Handl and Thomas Kohler, who Associate Professor of Marketing at Hawaii Pacific University and an expert on startup-corporate collaboration.

The most interesting result from the research and feedback was that there is a real challenge to consider when it comes to implementing projects with startups in the post-acceleration phase. While there was plenty to celebrate from the first Factory1 - most notably a collaboration with operations management software provider Mobiag - it could have been even better. Handl explained this further in an exclusive interview with us.

“The feedback we got was quite positive from the human perspective,” says Handl. “Everyone felt pretty comfortable and taken care of. But there was still room for improvement with the execution towards the end, with the post-acceleration program. We had quite a few problems integrating the startups into our day to day business.”

Handl and his team have responded to that with a few major adjustments for the second program, which promises to deliver an even more positive set of collaborations.

“This time the fields for innovation are more closely aligned with our business units, because it brought us some challenges in the post-acceleration program when they weren’t!

“The process post-acceleration is now much better structured - we already know exactly what we will do with this year’s startups. We started partnership talks during the program this time around, whereas last time it was at the end. That made startups feel a little bit uncomfortable because at first they were not sure if we wanted to collaborate with them.

“I can already announce that we will enter into a partnership with each of the startups in this latest Factory1. This time the mentors will remain the primary interface with the startups for some time to come. And we will have regular meetings with all mentors to review the progress and see if we are executing what was planned.

“Another thing we’ve done is included the whole Kapsch group, not just our TrafficCom division. From having just a member from other units on the jury as an ‘external expert’ in the first edition, it has now become a group-wide undertaking.”

One area where Kapsch did well from the start was having involvement at the very top. Unusually for a CEO of a major company, Georg Kapsch personally read almost 500 pages of applications for both accelerators. That’s a great example to follow. But for this second edition, Kapsch have gone one better by including the entire board on the program committee, including the CTO and COO.

By now you should have a feel of the no-nonsense approach taken by the white paper. There’s heaps more in the way of practical learnings, which we won’t give away here. What we did do was ask Handl about the honesty of the publication.

“One of the things we have learned from working with startups is that you can only get on successfully if you open yourself up,” he says. “This is why we decided to share our journey from incremental to disruptive innovation. We think honesty is the right thing.

“It also brought us into contact with Raiffeisen Bank International. We shared the findings of our research with them in various conversations in recent months. They found it pretty interesting - sometimes the things that didn’t work out well are the things you can consider going forward. They appreciated our honesty and now we’re running one of the startup challenges in their current Elevator Lab program. So that was a good return on investment!”

Both Kapsch and Raiffeisen, we’re proud to say, are clients of our consultancy arm, Pioneers Discover. In Kapsch’s case, we were tasked with scouting the startups for this second edition.

“We had external help on the program management for the first edition, but this time around we decided to do that part on our own - just with a little backup ready! I’m very proud of how we internalized the knowledge of running such programs. However, the sourcing of startups would not be possible without the help of a company like Pioneers.”

Download the white paper here.

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