The acceleration program of BCR, InnovX, helped 500 people from 126 companies so far, accelerating 126 innovators, of which 45 grinders, 39 startups and 42 scaleups.

Startup & corporate = a learning story

We had the chance to talk about the strong bond between the corporate ant the startup world with Thomas Kolarik, COO of BCR, at the launch of a new hub, The Office in Timișoara. At the launch of this new space, a strategic move for InnovX’s plans of supporting the local ecosystem, we talked with Thomas Kolarik about the way a bank’s acceleration program can also check some of the startups needs and fulfilments.

Thomas is now the COO of BCR, with a strong background in IT, startup, project delivery and financial services. He also built a company from scratch, has supervisory board experience and also has an academic background, as an assistant professor at Vienna University of Economics and Business.

“We nurture startups because we like it and we have experts that are eager to share their knowledge”.

InnovX means 45 BCR experts who are currently participating as mentors, jurors or speakers in the program. And since 2019 until today they have mentored startups on topics such as finance, procurement, products, branding or communication, summing a total of 2200 hours in the program.

Why they do it? Because a corporate partnership makes total sense. A startup can benefit from resources, customer access and corporate funding.

What’s in it for the corporations? They need to innovate to stay ahead of competitors and disruption and access new technology.

"We have seen in InnovX 126 startups accelerated in the past 3 years and combined with our internal digital transformation process, we can say that we are a total different company, based on this learning process”, adds Thomas.

These years so far have also come with learning points for the corporate world, and Thomas shared some of them with us:

  • we need to work to include startups in major requests for proposals that often are only opened to conventional vendors.
  • we need to train Business Unit project managers on the startup ecosystem and its culture to facilitate interaction between these very different ways of working.

“We already started to pilot this kind of initiatives, but I will be very honest about it: it`s not easy as it takes time & effort to build knowledge and capacity building here, to be able to ask ourselves the right discovery questions and to see an end to end process since the beginning.”

The learning goes both way, so the chief operating officer of BCR also shared his thoughts on what startups should know from collaborating with the corporate world:

  • choose the large corporates that you want to work with, keeping in mind the processes they have in place and the kind of shocks that your startup is able to withstand. A corporate that can describe step-by-step how it will work with you is a positive signal, showing an awareness and a structural effort that goes beyond the hype.
  • stop the free PoCs (proof of concepts)
  • always set a decent price for your work (not high, not low), to establish a true business relationship with the corporate from the beginning.

“Also, the difference in the way that time moves for startups and corporates is huge and the gap isn’t closing soon. It’s important to understand the decision-making cycle of these more imposing entities, to be able to adapt.”

Thomas has seen both sides: that of a corporate world and that of a startup. He said he loves startups and IT, himself being one of the startup guys back when he founded his own business consulting service in Vienna. That is why his perspective is a natural balance for both worlds:

“My strong advice to all entrepreneurs who are trying to co-create with corporations is: bear with us and come as prepared as possible to meet the needs of a company. We sometimes may not have full commitment from the executive team, we might be slow, we might get stuck in piloting process and not able to scale it due to lack of resources. One thing is for sure, it’s a very useful learning and developing process for both sides. This is why we continue to believe and to invest in InnovX-BCR. We want to help start-ups and SMEs, and help ourselves, to digitize the supply chain, develop sustainable operations and utilize automation and AI to raise efficiency.”