Accelerators, Hubs

From Accelerator to Innovation Powerhouse

Based on an Interview with Timothy O’ Connell, Senior Partner, H-Farm, Venice, Italy

Based on an Interview with Timothy O’ Connell, Senior Partner, H-Farm, Venice, Italy

by: Eric Mathews, CEO, Start Co.|

August 30, 2022

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Articles | Accelerators | From Accelerator to Innovation Powerhouse

H-Farm was founded in 2005 as a venture incubator and launched its first structured accelerator program in 2012. Since its founding, H-Farm has made 116 direct investments into startups totaling $26 million. Fourteen of the businesses have exited with an average multiple over 6.5. It is an impressive track record, but the team at H-Farm had set their sights on something bigger.

Big Money

After running several batches through the accelerator program, it became clear that H-Farm could and should expand its focus into adjacent areas of innovation support, specifically by providing corporate innovation and building talent for innovation. With a dream on the horizon, H-Farm needed big money.

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Going Public Creates International Excellence

While H-Farm could be comfortable with a local, regional, and national focus, the leadership team realized that in order to be internationally competitive as a startup and innovation engine, alternative thinking would be needed. To open up innovation, create alignment with broader European innovation, and to advance to the next level of growth, H-Farm listed on the Alternative Investment Market (AIM) stock exchange in Milan, Italy, in 2015. This fueled a rapid expansion of H-Farm, which now has over 500 employees divided between Investments, Innovation, and Education.

While H-Farm has always had a joint mission of promoting innovation

And entrepreneurship across the key members of its ecosystem (i.e., students, startups, investors, corporates, and institutions), going public enabled the accelerator to achieve a scale and scope in which all actors could work in concert to cultivate a thriving ecosystem.

Corporate Collaboration

H-Farm’s Innovation arm identified early on the importance of “Open Innovation” in the Italian and broader Europe markets in which venture funding will never be able to compete with what exists in the United States. H-Farm tested methods to support collaboration between startups and corporates across all industries: automotive, insurance, fashion, food, retail, and many more.

Full Spectrum Education

H-Farm’s Education arm is potentially the most ambitious effort ever taken on by an expanding accelerator in the world; the accelerator built an entire educational campus and opened it in 2020. Now, those as young as 3 years old all the way up to executives seeking professional education have a school and university that combines innovation and education in one location. H-Farm has international pre-K through secondary schools, colleges and advanced and professional training schools. It is a milestone like no other in the accelerator world.

Going Big is a Big Success

H-Farm now has over 150 corporate partners engaged in over 250 open innovation programs. These programs take the form of scouting for startups, proof of concept or pilot projects, outsource innovation and technology development contracts, hackathons, and other engagements. This has resulted in over 200 startup-corporate collaborations to date.

The H is for Human

The ‘H’ in H-Farm stands for Human. Innovation has to start with people in mind, which is why H-Farm evolved into an education-focused accelerator that supports students, university-building, and professionals working in corporations that aim to build a better future by solving complex challenges. Future value and growth will be created by great entrepreneurs

Who are supported by corporations and new talent each and every day.

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