How Young Entrepreneurs Are Finding Friends in the Corporate World

4798 Young entrepreneurs have it made. While most start-ups are struggling to find resources, funding, mentorship, and talented employees, college start-ups have no shortage of incubators, accelerators, college entrepreneurial programs, and a pool of super-talented classmates to help them get off the ground. And with a number of high-profile college start-up successes--Michael Dell and Mark Zuckerberg--the ranks of undergrad entrepreneurs continue to swell.
But, of course, every business won't succeed. There will inevitably be a few standouts that have that magic combination of skill, resources, intelligence, drive, and resilience to create and run a scalable business. Each year we take a deep dive into this space with the hopes of discovering these standouts--the most innovative upstarts with the most potential to succeed.

And my, what a difference a year makes! We received nearly 100 more nominations than we did last year, totaling just over 200. We also noticed an interesting trend arising: big corporations such as Microsoft and General Electric are competing with the Y Combinators of the world to align themselves with, potentially, the next Alexis Ohanian.

Coming to the Table

Large corporations and established companies, in the past more guarded and reluctant to share their resources with outsiders, are opening up and granting the next generation of entrepreneurs access to their infrastructure, hardware, and networks. What do they get out of the deal? Tapping early-stage entrepreneurs gives large companies access to fresh ideas, first dibs on amazing new products, and, perhaps, their next acquisition.

"Connecting to early stage innovation, they [the host companies] are able to speed up their own internal innovation, see things their competitors miss, and bring cutting-edge solutions to their customers," explains Unity Stoakes, co-founder of StartUp Health Academy, a Washington, DC-based program with the goal of helping to build 1,000 sustainable businesses in healthcare over the next decade. In conjunction with General Electric, the program will help early-stage consumer health companies by providing a customized growth curriculum, access to GE's executives, training on scaling business operations, and exposure to GE technology experts. There is no fee to participate.

Dan'l Lewin, corporate vice president of strategic and emerging business development for Microsoft, echoes the sentiment. "These days more than ever, everything is connected," he says. "As a result of that, it's ever more obvious that there are more smart people around the world than inside your corporate firewall."

There is also, of course, the possibility of a start-up being purchased by the host company, though all who contributed to this article said this is an exception and not the rule. "Over time we may buy some as well, if entrepreneurs are doing things that fill gaps in our product lines," Lewin says. "This is a byproduct as opposed to the purpose, but sometimes the outcome."

Source: CNBC | Julie Strickland
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