Purina Unleashed Accelerator
We’ve coached 18 startups since 2020, with five proofs-of-concept taken to the Nestlé Venture Fund
Services: Accelerator Program Design, Start-Up Onboarding | Prototyping | MVP Setup and Management | Agile Methodologies | Business Modeling Support | Persona Design
Building the infrastructure for success
Purina was facing competitive pressure from disruptive startups, as well as other pet care company accelerators. In line with Nestlé’s global initiative to accelerate innovation as a way to address consumer needs and future challenges, Purina launched the Unleashed Accelerator Lab with Kim Bill to head it up. Purina wanted to find ways to challenge established ways of creating growth through startups – but they wanted a partner to help them support the program and its startup cohorts up for long-term success.
The pet industry in the US alone is projected to nearly triple in size and reach $275 billion by 2030, according to Morgan Stanley, so the growth opportunities were tremendous with the right approach and accelerator proposition. This is driven by the trend that pet owners are more and more becoming pet “parents,” i.e., pets are seen as real family members. We knew that we needed to define the process and help the cross-functional Nestlé Purina teams find optimal ways of working with the startups. With a program that aims to identify and support startups creating pet care, we needed to do two more things: provide additional strategic support to each cohort, and ensure that incumbent subject matter experts from Purina could impart their knowledge to startups in the best possible way.
Creating growth through symbiotic value exchange
The first step was carving out effective roles for each Nestlé Purina team and agreeing on a framework for proof-of-concept (PoC) definition, as well as a way of working for the six-month incubator program. This laid the groundwork for how best to onboard and support the startups throughout the program. This was done using agile methodology such as Scrumban. We used a two-week sprint for digital business model proofs-of-concept and a four-week sprint variant for pet nutrition proofs-of-concept.
Introducing and embedding agile methodologies was key to a framework that allowed the cohort to go from kick-off to business concept validation in six months.
After the intense kick-off and PoC definition phase, our support consisted of providing startup and Purina teams with brand and user experience audits, research, and workshop support to define value and brand propositions, communications, and UX concepts. We also acted as Scrum master to ensure impediments in the way of working would be addressed within sprints.
The program has been giving startups critical access to pet health and nutrition expertise, proof-of-concept funding, and established commercial networks since its 2020 launch. Over the course of our partnership with the Unleashed Accelerator Lab, we’ve coached 18 startups alongside the multidisciplinary Purina team and helped to nurture five successful proofs-of-concept to the point where they could be scaled up by the Nestlé Venture Fund (with more to be added from the current class of 2022).
The unique structure and industry focus of the program has allowed for a truly symbiotic value exchange. Startups can do what they do best: build, test, and iterate, but in a supportive environment of world-class experts provided by Purina. Meanwhile, the Purina team is strengthening their own capabilities in agile ways of working and future-proofing their portfolio through fostering loyalty and collaboration with cohorts.
With over 200 applications for six spots every year since 2020, we’ve helped to build a program that itself has improved through an iteration of build, test, and learn. Each year has contributed to this program being acknowledged as the best practice example for startup acceleration within the global Nestlé ecosystem.