IKEA is the latest retailer to unveil a startup accelerator program and plans to host IKEA Bootcamp, an event organized around the theme “co-creating a better everyday life,” from Sept. 18 to Dec. 8 at IKEA’s facilities in Älmhult, Sweden, according to a Business Insider report.
The retailer is partnering with Danish entrepreneurship organization Rainmaking to provide participants with a EUR 20,000 grant (around $22,500), and access to IKEA’s prototype shop, test labs and innovation development resources, as well as the expertise and knowledge within the IKEA Range & Supply Democratic Design Center on sight.
Ikea is looking for startups to help solve the “big problems” around being affordable, accessible and “enabling a positive impact on the planet, people and society,” according to the bootcamp web site.
It's probably a vast over-statement to say that this accelerator program is all about sustainability and giving a leg up to startups that are trying to save the planet. However, the sustainability aspect (or "circularity," as Ikea calls it), as well as Ikea's statements about "co-creating a better everyday life" are part of what makes this startup accelerator program a bit different, at least at first glance, from some of the others.
And there have been quite a few of them. Target + Techstars in the last two years arguably has become the most prominent accelerator program with a retail focus. However, Amazon is also building an accelerator program for conversational commerce startups to help drive the expansion of its Alexa ecosystem. In addition to those efforts, just a week ago, Georgia Tech launched a retail-focused startup incubator.
It might be tempting to view all of Ikea's talk about life-improvement as a PR and advertising stunt, and the retailer has shown that it is not shy about using socially-progressive messaging in its marketing campaigns. The "American Dream" ad campaign launched late last year was one example of this (and an ironically-timed one, as it turns out). An accelerator program increases Ikea's commitment to do more than just talk progressively.
Although that commitment doesn't extend to Ikea bank-rolling startups. Ikea specifically states it will not invest in the startups chosen to participate in the accelerator program, though the amount of the grant is pretty close to the $20,000 capital investment Target makes in companies that qualify for its program. As the program advances, Ikea may find itself working with a startup whose business it really wants to invest in, or perhaps even acquire.