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Where startups grow for retail


About why retailers need start-up accelerators.

Nowadays many large companies have a need for innovation. However, in order to start working with new technologies, it is important to understand where to look for them and how to bring interesting ideas to life. Not all companies have the opportunity to do this work independently. And here the program of the accelerated development of startups — the corporate accelerator comes to help the business. With its help, you can not only find innovative solutions and assess their potential, but also arrange a process of rapid implementation — first by making pilots, then with access to mass production.

The corporate acceleration model allows you to simultaneously run several pilot projects in different areas of activity, which is especially important for retail, where business combines logistics and IT systems for cash equipment, analytics, and CRM. Retail is now one of the main consumers of innovation. Such major players as Leroy Merlin, IKEA and X5 Retail Group have own accelerators.

But making your own accelerator is not the easiest task. All startups are different, they are at different stages of development and may require different support tools. The direct investment is needed for some ones, for others a platform for product testing is necessary, and third ones need industry expertise.

Therefore, in an effort to save time and money, companies are outsourcing this task — they turn to the help of corporate accelerators. For example, our team currently works with Unilever. As a part of the accelerator, the corporation is looking for new recipes and ingredients for ice cream, sauces, tea, conservants of natural origin, systems of interaction with consumers, freezing systems with remote control, GPS applications for tracking logistic processes, etc. At the search stage for technological solutions, we managed to find 190 startups from Russia, Kazakhstan, Israel, Ukraine, Belarus and the United Arab Emirates. Based on the results of a multi-stage selection and a three-month acceleration program, the best teams will be able to integrate their solutions into Unilever business processes anywhere in the world.

Processing and analytics of big data, artificial intelligence together with robotics have become the most demanded directions in retail. They are used to collect and process information about customers, which is necessary for arranging personalized offers. For example, a graduate of our accelerator, Promobot company, which produces robot consultants, has been working in the “Lenta” network for 2 years. The robot not only tells customers about new products and special offers, but also collects requests analytics, which then network employees can use to improve processes.

With the help of big data technologies and machine learning, retailers can also manage employee work schedules in accordance with customer traffic, sales dynamics, seasonality and other factors. As for artificial intelligence, startups are already emerging, offering solutions for smart shelves and smart warehouses. These technologies are able to assist in the placement of goods and to report when it is necessary to replenish reserves, based on behavioral analytics.

Another popular destination is a smart refrigerator with GPS trackers, which can monitor the storage conditions of products and report about the number of products to a particular salespoint. There is a growing demand for chat bots. First of all, there used the technologies that help to conduct an integral conversation with a customer, to make recommendations on the choice of goods. A separate trend is the use of VR technologies. They have already been adopted by the previously mentioned IKEA and Leroy Merlin. Developed applications help embed virtual furniture in the customer’s interior.

The most popular for corporations are projects that do not just have an idea, but a product prototype is ready and an analysis of hypotheses and effectiveness research has been carried out. All startups that want to work with companies must clearly understand the problem they are solving for their customers, the target market and the monetization model.

Corporations also need this advice. They do not always understand why they need innovations. Many of them are driven by tribute to fashion, and not a well-developed strategy for working with new technologies. Therefore, there is often a problem: a good product was found, but the customer does not have a platform for its integration. But we expect that from year to year more and more players from different sectors of the economy will turn to the “open innovation” model and their choice will be conscious.


GenerationS accelerator was made by RVC in 2013. Since 2015, it has been working as a platform for the development of corporate innovations, which allowed large businesses to grow startups on a turnkey basis, for their specific tasks. For 5 years, applications for participation in the accelerator have been submitted by more than 15 thousand startups from 30 countries, and more than 500 startups have taken acceleration programs and received the support of corporate partners and investors.

Author: Ekaterina Petrova
the Director of the GenerationS corporate accelerator by RVC

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