Although Airbus is best-known for building planes, the need for it to expand its competences means that hopeful BizLab startups don’t necessarily need to be actual ‘flyers’. Those in fields including Blockchain, Cyber Security, Satellite Imagery Services and Data Analytics, as well as Unmanned Aerial Vehicles are invited to apply for the chance to impress experts and top management at the new-for-2018 round of pre-selection workshops, which will take place in Bangalore, Hamburg and at the original BizLab campus in Toulouse.
The two-day workshops, which replace short and sharp pitching sessions, are intended to narrow down the candidates to a maximum of seven in each city. These startups will stay on for the full six-month program, in which they will have access to BizLab coaches and a large number of experts in various domains (e.g. technology, legal, finance, marketing), free co-working space, dedicated executive mentors, learn and act sessions, access to prototyping and test facilities and a Demo Day with Airbus decision makers, partners, customers, and venture capitalists.
With luck, they will also get the chance to qualify for funding of up to €50,000 and to remain for the post-acceleration program, which is open to those startups who have signed some kind of formal agreement with an Airbus division. As did 42% of the 33 startups taking part over the first two seasons.
BizLab is mainly targeting startups around Series A level of maturity. But should they get picked and make it to one of the pre-selection workshops, what will make Gutierres and his colleagues really sit up and take notice of them as candidates for the full six-month program?
“We’re betting on the team,” says Bruno Gutierres, Head of Airbus BizLab. “It’s very easy to see during a pitch how a team is functioning, and for us it’s important to recruit a strong team. Creating your own business involves a lot of obstacles, and you need to go through them as a team, not one by one. So it’s important to see that the team is interacting – people with team spirit is the profile we are looking for!”
While unity might be the most important thing of all, the startups will of course also need to have some exciting technology to offer. And as the list of focus areas suggests, there’s plenty of room to impress here, too.
“We’re an aerospace specialist and digitalisation is not our core competence,” explains Gutierres. “Our wish is not to acquire startups but to create partners – this is very important. We also know that our industry is not easy to access and we really want to help startups do that.”
When it comes to creating a steady flow of partnerships between BizLab startups and Airbus, Gutierres is proud of the conversion rate since the first BizLab season ran in 2016. The ‘hybrid’ approach, which sees entrepreneurs working closely alongside Airbus ‘intrapreneurs’ taking part in their own internal acceleration projects, could go some way to explaining it.
“We realized that it was important for us to take benefit of new technology in areas where we didn’t have so much expertise, and it quickly appeared that the way to do that was to interact with some startups,” recalls Gutierres. “But like all big companies we’re not really built to work with them, especially at the early stage.
“So we went with creating an accelerator platform to ease that interaction. But we realised that the main challenge with accelerators wasn’t to accelerate but to transfer that value you create internally and to impact your core business significantly.
“When you mechanically separate internal and external innovation it creates a kind of competition between them. This means that when you try to internalize what you have developed thanks to the accelerator, all the internal systems are in resistance.
“How could we prevent that? We said, why not mix up intrapreneurs and entrepreneurs? Even if they are not working on the same project then they can help each other. This is how we developed the hybrid concept when we opened the first BizLab in Toulouse in 2015.
“We mix the intrapreneurs, working in startup mode but developing their own project, with entrepreneurs coming from all over the world. We ask them to be dedicated and negotiate with their management to free them for six months and work on the project like any entrepreneur.
“It’s hard to say that you are unique, but at the moment I haven’t seen the same concept at this scale.”
With a method that seems to be working well at bringing hungry startups together with keen internal innovators and getting them to form partnerships, BizLab nonetheless saw room for improvement in the selection process ahead of Season #4. Hence not only engaging Pioneers Discover, but the creation of the two-day workshop concept.
“The old selection system was quite frustrating,” admits Gutierres. “First of all for the startups because they had to come a long way only to pitch for 10 minutes. And for us because it was a bit short. That’s why we were going for the longer selection process, which is more valuable even for the startups that are not selected.
“Whether they are chosen or not, the startups will benefit from two days close working with our experts, which is always valuable. And on our side they will know the startup far better. So it’s more valuable for the startups and more efficient for us in terms of selection.”
“If one of your startup’s dreams is to disrupt or to integrate or to penetrate the aerospace market, there is no place to be other than the BizLab,” concludes Gutierres. “This is where you will be able to benefit from all the market access and expertise. And for all the passion you’ve got, we’ve got it too!”
The deadline for Airbus BizLab Season #4 applications is June 24th. Apply for this and all other startup opportunities at the Pioneers Discover Open Calls page here.