Opportunity knocking: Big companies, organizations want to work with your startup

(Editor’s note: This post on startup/corporate collaborations is part of our Tech Tuesdays series. Dispatches covers startups across Europe because so many of our highly skilled internationals are engineers, developers and entrepreneurs.)

News sites are full of predictions of gloom and doom, recessions and declining investments. And to an extent, that’s true, with venture capitalists and their limited partners stung by the collapse of the FTX crypto trading platform and other misadventures.

But global companies and big organizations stop innovating at their own peril.

This means you can work with Hyundai, collaborate with multiple airports, borrow working capital from Virgin Group or get a sizable investment from Microsoft. In fact, there are so many of these challenges, incubators and collaborations that we’ll keep this post updated regularly.

By the way, it’s just a coincidence that the majority of these listings involve mobility in one way or another. The post started with an email from Aeroporti di Roman.

Aeroporti di Roma

Aeroporti di Roma has launched a second “Call for Ideas” from startups. Emanuele Calà, the airport’s vice president of innovation and quality, states in a media release that this round of ADR’s acceleration program will offer successful applicants across eight different topics both funding and the opportunity to work on their projects directly from the ADR Innovation Hub located at Rome Fiumicino Airport’s Terminal One.

The acceleration period will last for a maximum of eight months, with the “Call for Ideas” focused on eight areas:

  • Predictive maintenance: solutions that enable preventive maintenance through the use of innovative technologies.
  • Enhanced terminal processes: solutions that enable more efficient/effective processes.
  • Improved airside operations: solutions that improve aircraft turnaround.
  • Environmental impact: solutions that aim to reduce environmental impact and energy consumption.
  • Community & sustainability: solutions that create value for the territory, local communities and environment.
  • Passenger experience: solutions that increase the quality offered to passengers, not only at the airport but also before and after the flight.
  • Commercial opportunities: solutions aimed at increasing sales opportunities.
  • Disruptive solutions: a free area where any startup can propose a solution without any thematic constraints.

There’s a maximum investment of 105,000 euros per startup and the possibility of contracting their solution up to a maximum of 2 million euros.

Startups anywhere in the world with a product or solution to test at Rome Fiumicino Airport can apply by clicking here. The applications deadline is 16 February 2023.

Aeroporti di Roma is a corporate partner of the FTE Digital, Innovation & Startup Hub at Gatwick airport, Horley, United Kingdom. The FTE hub works with airports, airlines and tech companies including Schiphol Airport, JAL, JetBlue and United Airlines.

Virgin StartUp

It didn’t surprise us to find out that ultra-entrepreneur Richard Branson, founder of Virgin Airlines, Virgin Records, Virgin Galactic and so forth, started a startup accelerator. It did surprise us to find out London-based Virgin StartUp is a not-for-profit organization. It surprised us even more that anyone in the UK can register for a free 30-minute virtual meeting with a Virgin StartUp advisor who will answer questions and take future founders through the first steps of getting a business off the ground – from business plans to financial forecasting.

With their support, budding entrepreneurs could go on to draft and submit their own StartUp Loan application. 

While we don’t recommend anyone go for senior-secured debt over raising money through equity stakes, Virgin does offer a good interest rate (6 percent) with fair terms, including no penalty for repaying early.

It looks like Virgin StartUp has loaned about 66 million pounds in the past nine years to 4,700 companies.

M12 Microsoft

M12 is Microsoft’s in-house VC, investing in AI, cloud infrastructure, cybersecurity, developer tools and vertical SaaS (areas such as retail and healthcare).

M12 invests in unison with Microsoft as well as independently from the software giant. And we have to say, the track record is impressive. In the six years since M12 was founded, it has invested in more than 100 companies, including 15 unicorns, scoring six IPOs. Most of the investments have been in the form of Series A rounds ($1 million and up) or Series B, typically more than $5 million depending on industry category. Investments include GitHub, the software developers’ community and code repository, acquiring it for $7.5 billion back in 2018.

Earlier this month, Microsoft CEO Satya Nadella announced M12 would more closely align with Microsoft, investing in companies that enhance the parent company’s goals. You can read the entire post, “M12 ventures down a new path,” here.

Hyundai ZER01NE Accelerator

Korea-based automotive and heavy equipment giant Hyundai created the ZER01NE accelerator back in 2018. Since then, 125 internal teams from 11 Hyundai affiliates and 96 startups have worked together on 80 collaborative projects, according to a media release. This has led to 51 startups successfully receiving equity investments.

The ZER01NE Company Builder initiative is designed to take the very best of those ideas and progress them further. The program provides selected ideas with up to $240,000 in funding for development expenses. Following a year of development, the ideas undergo spin-off deliberation with the potential to become an external-facing entity or provide in-house commercialization. Employees can also enlist the guidance of external experts to help develop their startup teams and their ideas.

Investment categories include smart mobility, robotics, AI and new energy.

You can apply here.

Groupe ADM

The ADP Group, which owns and operates airports, including Charles de Gaulle in Paris, has launched the Play Your Airfield challenge and is looking for innovative solutions to support the environmental transition of its airfields. 

The goal is to detect solutions that will help transform its properties into “benchmark airfields” in terms of innovation, sustainable development and “synergies with their environments.” We’re not sure what that last bit means, but it sounds like ADP Groupe is trying to do the right thing.

Through this opportunity, you get to access:

  • a PoC worth up to 30,000 euros
  • the support of the Group’s experts to develop your project
  • the opportunity to present your solution at the next International Paris Air Show at Le Bourget
  • a meeting with the investment partners at ADP Group’s innovation division

The goal of the program is to make the Toussus-le-Noble and Lognes-Emerainville airfields airports of the future in terms of sustainability and technologies.

From the website:

Do you work in a startup, a SME, an ETI, a large group or an association and do you think your organization could have a positive impact on the aerodromes of tomorrow? Propose your solution and have the opportunity to develop your project with the ADP group on the Toussus le Noble or Lognes-Emerainville airfields: 1st and 2nd French airfields, 5th and 10th French airport in number of movements!

If your project works, it may stand a chance to get financial backing and deploy your technology on potentially all the ADP Group’s airfields in the Ile-de-France.

You can apply here.


Paris-based global telecommunications giant Orange is “pretty into startups,” as a recent TechCrunch post put it.

Orange Group has several opportunities, including its Orange Fab corporate accelerator. It also has Orange Ventures, a VC fund with 350 million euros investing in a range of ideas across multiple geographies and verticals.

Remember, this is a way for Orange to solve issues faster, to find complimentary business lines in telecommunications that could become profit centers and to headhunt talent. You can see the extensive Orange Ventures portfolio here to get an idea of what/who they’re looking for.

If your company has a venture group or challenge, email us the details at: [email protected]

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Co-CEO of Dispatches Europe. A former military reporter, I'm a serial expat who has lived in France, Turkey, Germany and the Netherlands.

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