15 March 2021

Incubators Will Become to Corporations in the 21st Century What R&D Labs Became to Corporations in the 20th Century

In the decades after World War I ended in 1918, more than 500 American companies established Research & Development Labs. R&D was too important to a company's future to be left to chance or outside startups. Now, a century later, companies regularly update old products and release new ones. The iPhone just gets new model numbers in the same way that the French used to get a new King Louis - a succession of iPhones, the 3, 4, 6 ... 12 ... released at a more rapid rate than the King Louis but named no more creatively. But I digress.

 By far the most famous to emerge from that era was Bell Labs, from which sprung touch tone dial, the transistor, communication satellites and information theory.

In 2017, Walmart founded Store No8 - an incubator tasked with starting new businesses that will define the future of retail. 

Walmart has topped the Fortune 500 8 years in a row, generating $4 trillion in cumulative revenue in that time. Other companies pay attention to what they do.

My own prediction is that a growing portion of the Fortune 500 will follow this example: business incubators will become to the mid-2000s what R&D labs were to the mid-1900s.
Innovation - creating new products - that so defined 20th century businesses as prelude to entrepreneurship - creating new businesses - will increasingly drive and define 21st century corporations.

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