An Innovation Partner Interview With Highline Beta
As part of our Global Entrepreneur Program this year, Highline Beta, a venture studio development firm, joined us as an Innovation Partner. Highline runs several accelerator programs for startups, including the Safe × Connected Cities Accelerator which is focused on safe and connected cities, with the first challenge focused on safer roads. Specifically, they are looking for startups that can help tackle mobility and road safety challenges and potentially pilot and scale the technology through a commercial deal.
Highline’s program is complementary to our own mission to bend the curve on road traffic collisions so they are no longer one of the leading causes of death and injuries worldwide. Together, we are working to identify and connect with startup applicants that could benefit from both programs. Our GEP cohort 3 will be announced in December.
We sat down with Highline’s Founding Partner, Ben Yoskovitz, to learn more about the company and the program.
Q:Tell us about Highline Beta: what you do, how long you’ve been doing it, and for whom
I started Highline Beta with my co-founder, Marcus Daniels, in 2016. The thesis was that we could unlock the assets within large companies (i.e. domain expertise, distribution, capital, technology, data, etc.) and bring that value to startups, in return creating immense value for large companies and startups alike. We help big companies such as RBC, AB InBev and others, identify areas of opportunity and growth outside of their core business, and then work with them to realize those opportunities.
One of the ways we do that is through our commercial deal accelerators. These are accelerators focused on helping startups secure meaningful pilots with large corporates. For example, we support the 100+ Sustainability Accelerator with AB InBev and the Safe x Connected Cities Accelerator with Aviva Canada and others. These are typically six month programs to get pilots off the ground and determine if there’s real opportunity to scale for the startup and the large corporate.
Q:Where are you with your 2020 program? What is the next step?
We’ve just completed the application process for Safe x Connected Cities, with a focus on safer roads. We’re now going through the tough process of filtering and selecting startups for the first cohort. We’ll be doing this in partnership with Aviva Canada, identifying startups that are pilot-ready, where we can bring value. We’re focusing on a wide range of topics within the overall theme of safer roads including data solutions, pedestrian safety solutions, detection solutions and more.
Q: What sort of startups do you work with?
At Highline Beta we work with a variety of startups from very early stage ones to later stage. In our accelerator programs, we tend to focus on those startups with product in-market and some traction. They have to be ready to work with a big company. So these are often Seed+ or Series A startups that have demonstrated proof they can deliver. We work across industries, and generally have the most expertise in software, although we work with hardware and service-based startups as well.
Q: What is your tie in to road safety/why did you partner with TSR?
The first challenge in our Safe x Connected Cities Accelerator is focused on safer roads. When we came across TSR and its mission, we knew we wanted to collaborate. TSR is a great initiative, dedicated to making our roads safer. And considering how busy roads are getting, with increased traffic and types of transportation, the issue of road safety is only become more significant. Highline Beta’s entire business is predicated on partnering with others and uncovering value for everyone, so it made perfect sense to collaborate with TSR.
Q: There are so many accelerators these days, what makes yours unique?
We’re focused on commercial deals and pilots. That’s the most important element of our accelerator program. We want startups to come away with meaningful relationships with our corporate partners. So we’re more focused on commercialization than most accelerators. We also provide significant mentorship and programming along the way, based on our team’s expertise in building companies. And as we bring more partners into the fold on a specific accelerator, we can unlock even more value for our participating startups.
Q: Anything else you’d like our readers to know about your accelerator program or company?
Highline Beta is focused on unlocking growth beyond the core for our customers — large, ambitious companies that want to figure out their next growth engines. One way of doing that is working with startups, but doing it in the right way. We believe a commercial deal accelerator creates the right interface to attract the best startups out there to solve real problems that matter. It is incredible when you see a collaboration between a small startup and large company work—I believe everyone wins in this situation, which is fantastic.