Big Business & Startups: Leveraging Accelerator Programs to Merge the Two

Large companies such as MetLife, BlackRock, Wells Fargo, Goldman Sachs, and J.P. Morgan are utilizing accelerator programs to integrate an entrepreneurial spirit and innovate the long-standing company’s traditional methods.


The insurance industry has massive size and reach, with global insurance premiums of $4.5 trillion in 2015. As I talked about in my presentation, MetLife is the largest contributor to this market. By expanding and launching their new, first of its kind Digital Accelerator program in collaboration with Techstars, Metlife is able to focus on developing industry-disrupting technologies within the insurance space. The ten chosen startups are hosted at MetLife’s Global Technology Campus in Cary, North Carolina, for an intensive 13-week program focused on the development and acceleration of transformational ideas, with the goal of helping InsurTech founders “do more faster.” In return for 6% equity of each company, the 10 InsurTech startups gain connections with MetLife, $120,000 in funding, and engagement with techstars’ knowledgeable mentor network. Since its creation in 2007, Techstars has worked with the world’s top entrepreneurs, and in 2015, Techstars companies represented 5% of all Series A deals. Some other perks the accelerator provides the startups are:

metlife-10_750xx4000-2250-0-209 2.jpg

  • Lifetime access to the Techstars worldwide network of entrepreneurs including more than 10,000 mentors; 2,700 investors; 1,200 alumni companies and 180 staff members.
  • Access to over $300k of cash equivalent hosting, accounting and, legal support –plus other credits and perks worth more than $1M.
  • Access to working and meeting spaces, as well as a lounge
  • Fast and reliable wireless Internet access
  • Demo Day exposure and other investor connections
  • An Equity Back Guarantee (the only one of its kind in the industry)metlife 2.png


Similarly, BlackRock has just launched their own accelerator program in collaboration with Fast Forward, to incubate high growth nonprofits in tackling social issues such as global health and education. Fast Forward is a San Francisco-based accelerator for nonprofits “at the intersection of tech and good.” Therefore, BlackRock is partnering with the program in order to use technology and philanthropy to further entrepreneurial innovation. The nonprofit startups selected for the summer accelerator program receive:

  • financial support (a $25,000 grant)
  • 100 hours of pro-bono services
  • connections to mentors who are leaders in tech and philanthropy


Fast Forward’s accelerator program is not as hands-on as Techstars, however, in that the companies in Fast Forward’s portfolio have to find their own housing, office space, and merely meet with mentors once every two week for assistance. However, they receive a grant, instead of a convertible note, and have similar demo day experiences.

Wells Fargo:

Wells Fargo has their own startup accelerator with the goal of “driv[ing] innovation forward” in order to make “banking faster, easier, smarter, and safer for our customers and for the entire financial services industry.” Therefore, the company is focusing on aiding startups associated with analytics, big information, artificial intelligence, cybersecurity, blockchain, robotics, digital marketing, Web of Things, authentication, wearables, operations, and more. Some other features of this program are:

  • Non-Exclusivity: startups are free to join other programs and find additional funding along the way
  • One-time investments of up to $1,000,000 for a minority equity stake in the company
  • Option to continue working across different business lines within Wells Fargo
  • A virtual platform that lasts approximately six months
  • Commitment to help startups break into the Fortune 500 marketplace via coaching and access to mentors, advocates, executives, and investors

wells-fargo-startup-accelerator-program-2018 2.png

Goldman Sachs:

As Nick presented on last week, Goldman Sachs has launched a new incubator program called GS Accelerate, specifically for its own employees to bring innovative tech ideas into fruition at Goldman. According to a company memo, the accelerator aims to generate “ideas that can deliver best-in-class solutions for our clients, take Goldman Sachs into new business areas, manage risk, and tackle inefficiencies in our operations.” If an idea is chosen, the program would provide access to resources, mentors, and capital to help turn ideas into to real businesses within the bank. While this is a great idea, I wonder if Goldman employees—clearly committed to the company and invested in the hard work they do there—could have the same entrepreneurial spirit and passion that an outsider would have.



J.P. Morgan:

J.P. Morgan, another top financial services company, has a similar “In-Residence program,” in which outside entrepreneurs “partner with J.P. Morgan’s internal business and technology ecosystem to build, validate, and scale solutions that will yield enduring value not just for J.P. Morgan, but the financial industry as whole.” With no fixed program length or stipend, this program loosely resembles an accelerator in terms of mentorship and exposure, but not as many other benefits. J.P. Morgan therefore provides its facilities, software, and knowledge to the entrepreneurs in exchange for a front row seat to the latest in innovation and potential partnerships in the future. Therefore, while there is no set financial reward upon completion, the goal is that J.P. Morgan will continue the partnership via a commercial agreement, strategic investment, or other forms of funding.


In all of the above examples, massive companies are taking chances on entrepreneurs so that they can focus on creating a great product, while the company can obtain the first mover advantage.  Overall, strong partners and mentors are what startups need to succeed. Accelerator programs allow entrepreneurs to succeed by introducing them to people who can help, assisting them with strategy, finding more investors, and more. By working with large companies that clearly have strong networks, both sides benefit. Although some accelerator programs seem more involved than others, it is definitely a very interesting and encouraging trend to see such respectable companies invest in a future of entrepreneurs with technology at the root of every startup idea.


Personally, I find MetLife and BlackRock’s accelerator programs to be more impactful and more in line with a company I would like to work at, whereas Goldman Sachs, Wells Fargo, and J.P. Morgan’s programs seek to merely improve their own company and keep top talent from heading to Silicon Valley. I am interested to see if any of these accelerator programs will make a breakthrough in the insurance, social impact, or financial services sector sometime soon and am excited to visit MetLife and Goldman Sachs next week!

5 thoughts on “Big Business & Startups: Leveraging Accelerator Programs to Merge the Two

  1. Thank you for sharing Katie, I really enjoyed your post. I think it’s extremely interesting to look at the two categories of incubators that large banks offer: in house incubators for their own employees to innovate and help the firm, and on the other hand, for exterior entrepreneurs to have a platform to pursue their and build their ideas. I think that both of these categories of incubators are very productive for several reasons. For the in-house incubators, this encourages innovation in such large firms while at the same time furthering the firms technological offerings if the innovative project does become successful. For accelerator programs catered to exterior entrepreneurs, this is also beneficial for banks to engage in solely for the equity that they can acquire in their incubator companies. I agree with you that in-house programs are most likely used to grow a firms offerings and attract top tech talent, however, I think that these programs do truly enable people who want a secure job to limit the risk they have to take when attempting to start a venture. Thank you for sharing, and like you, I am interested to see where the current incubator companies go in the future.

    – Nick


  2. Great blog post! This is certainly very appealing for someone graduating from college to work with the security of a job at a big company while still having the entrepreneurship spirit. I agree with your conclusion and I find BlackRock to be the most influential one of the ones that you mentioned in your article. This is because it is the only one working with non-profits who are looking to make the greatest impact. It would be interesting to see how the “in-Residence programs” of JP Morgan and Goldman distribute equity of the startup and how much is given to the founders.


  3. I retweeted your post because I really thought it was great. The coolest thing about the fact that these industry leaders are investing so much in these accelerator / entrepreneurship programs is that it means their businesses are transforming. To me, it seems like a big reason for this commitment to entrepreneurship is not only to bring a creative mindset to the workplace and foster innovation, but also transform their businesses and stay ahead of the game as we move into the future. Really cool to think about what this means for us as we inch closer to being in the real world. These great companies are changing the way they do things and are moving in new directions, which means new hires and new exciting roles focused on entrepreneurship.


  4. I find it interesting that so many large companies are launching their own accelerator programs. I think it is a great idea for companies so they can ensure that they stay at the forefront of their industry through constant innovation. Two summers ago, I interned at MassChallenge–a startup accelerator located in Boston, MA. MassChallenge provided many resources for their startups, but we could not provide them with an already established connection to a large firm. Therefore, I can really see the value in being part of the accelerator programs that you discuss in your post.


Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s