R&D is essential to any company’s future. If your technology, products and services don’t continue to develop, neither will your business.
Traditionally, R&D was done in specialist labs and departments dedicated to finding new or better ways of doing things. Citrix are like any large technical infrastructure company, they have plenty of R&D activity going on. But they’ve got another unique way of innovating, a method that was jokingly referred to as ‘R&D on crack’ during the #Blogbus visit to their Silicon Valley offices.
A couple of years ago, Citrix decided to establish a startup accelerator program. Unlike many incubators in the Bay Area, their core motivation for supporting these start-ups is not a profitable exit. They take financial interests in the companies their program supports, and obviously the aim is for these start-ups to make money. The primary focus, however, is on finding companies that are developing products and technologies that have relevance to Citrix and their customers.
Michael Harries, Chief Technologist at Citrix Startup Accelerator, described the work the start-ups were doing as “at the pointy end of innovation”. He said the program allowed Citrix “to see around corners and into the future”. These lean start-ups allow Citrix to reduce risk as early as possible and to hit the market fast with the products and services that it wants.
We chatted with several of the start-ups they are currently supporting and it was obvious that the program is a win-win arrangement for both Citrix and the entrepreneurs. The start-ups don’t just get funding. They get access to the vast network of people and technology that global organisation such as Citrix can provide.
Srinivasa Venkataraman, CEO of primadesk, one of the businesses in the accelerator program, summed it up perfectly:
“When you join the Citrix Startup Accelerator you get access to so many people that you can use as a soundboard. They are looking out for our companies, always trying to help us develop and grow. We learn as a group which is so much better than trying to solve problems individually. They feed us information.”
The program represents a microcosm of the Silicon Valley ecosystem because such support, advice, shared skills and capital are exactly what the area brings to any startup based there. Silicon Valley is one big giant startup incubator. It’s a mature, highly successful and extremely inspirational place. The mere existence of so many Valley success stories is inspirational.
Citrix have played a very shrewd card by setting up an accelerator on their own premises in this way. Their careful selection of start-ups that fit their own product and service spread is a very clever way of ensuring they get maximum value from their involvement. The Citrix Startup Accelerator program really is “R&D on crack”.