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Welcome 2021 with a Look Back at 2020

A 2020 year in review, plus what we learned and what comes next

Unique. Challenging. Unprecedented – 2020 was all those things and more, and even though the world is about to transition into a new year the world’s innovation ecosystem still facing many challenges. If there is one thing our innovation intelligence community understands it’s disruption – but typically in a positive way. The UBI Global community of business incubators and accelerators are the backbone of new, disruptive startup companies with technology that changes the world. So how did they respond to a world that was already changing around them? Let’s welcome 2021 with a 2020 look back to activity within our innovation intelligence community.

Many of us are still keeping an eye on climate change despite the pandemic commanding attention. This great article is a guide to top-class startups addressing climate change and the great UBI Global member programs nurturing them. Revisit the article here.

Camels | Unicorns

As our world has settled into a ‘new normal’ startups are preserving capital while finding innovative ways to appeal to a shifting consumer focus. Later-stage deals of large proportions used to take three to six months to close after in-person negotiations and meetings. Today, these are delayed until some uncertain rebound occurs instead of the rapid growth most startups strive to achieve. As the Harvard Business Review put it, it’s time for startups to think like camels – not unicorns. Fortunately, our community of business incubators and accelerators already knows this.

 Incubators | Accelerators

One of the problems with startups trying to survive and thrive on their own, outside of business incubator and accelerator programs is that the go-go-growth unicorn model only works during times of very strong, active markets. On the other hand, in our community of business incubators and accelerators, startups are being nurtured to have a solid business foundation with great guidance from experienced program managers and staff as well as mentors from successful corporations. These startups also have a golden ticket to access legal, marketing, and financial resources, and they’re imparted with a born-global mindset to think big right from the start. Like camels, these startups have stored everything they need to survive and thrive, even in the harshest conditions.

Read the UBI Global team’s take on how COVID-19 was affecting startups and our survival tips for those early days.

2020 -> What we Learned

As a community, the business incubator and accelerator members of UBI Global have plenty to share with each other, and, in 2020, share they did. Though we couldn’t meet in person, like we did at the 2019 World Incubation Summit, and we didn’t have a World Benchmark Study to focus on, our community came together in many other ways.

Through our online platform, UBI Connect, members shared news of virtual demo days, corporate calls for startup collaboration, successful virtual pitch meetings, and other events that activated everyone’s innovation. Our focus as the leader of the innovation intelligence community was on making matches and collaborative introductions between startups from our community and corporate innovation seekers.

Our members are more important than ever – which is why our membership tiers were refined in 2020. Read more about the changes, benefits, and how to become a member of the UBI Global community here.

Corporation Meets Startup

Early on, we recognized that the challenges of 2020 would make it difficult for startups and programs to access the technology and resources they need. We also discovered that corporations had a laundry list of new technology and innovation they needed, and fast. Resolving to be the bridge where corporation meets startup, we launched three initiatives for our community to take part in. The UBI Global corporate matching programs included Corporate Calls, #SaveTheUnicorns, and UBI Spotlight.

Read an in-depth article on the UBI Global Corporate Matching activities here.

Corporate Calls

These are outreach, scouting, and matching events conducted by our communications team and our research team. This year, we have crowdsourced innovation from our community for some amazing corporate partners including Aliaxis, Fater, a major consumer goods manufacturer, and a multinational corporation, to name a few. Startups from our community were nominated and introduced to corporate partners, bringing the self-cleaning fabric, titanium dioxide substitute, water tech, and phase change materials, and other mind-blowing innovations needed to disrupt the market, solve problems and create new opportunities.
What on earth is the#SaveTheUnicorns initiative, you ask? UBI Global is saving unicorn startups time and effort by connecting them with great partners, customers, and business resources. Read more about #SaveTheUnicorns here.


This initiative was launched to save unicorn startups time and resources by serving them great partners with technology and the resources they needed to survive and thrive in 2020. Great companies like Hubspot and Freshworks offered discounts on their products or services, while Intesa Sanpaolo Innovation Center set up innovation hubs providing support, space, and more.

What’s the difference between a Corporate Call and #SaveTheUnicorns? This article dissects the differences, click here.

UBI Spotlight

Newly relaunched with a fresh look, UBI Spotlight is a bi-weekly email newsletter that is delivered to 300+ corporate innovation managers, VCs, CVCs, and others that opt-in for startup news. These are smart people that invite UBI Global’s innovation intelligence community to deliver great startups to their inbox instead of spending all the time and effort searching, scraping, and sifting through tons of startup information.

UBI Spotlight is for Pro and Premium members only, just one of the many benefits of upgrading to a higher membership tier. Read more about UBI Spotlight including how to nominate and how corporations can subscribe here.

UBI Global Member Superstars

When we look back at 2020, one thing will be amazingly clear – that our growing community is the best! Response and participation in the corporate matching events over the past year were incredible, and we thank each and every program and startup that participated, nominated, and met our great corporate partners with so much enthusiasm. 

Congratulations and a big ‘thank you’ to the three programs that went above and beyond to nominate the most startups for corporate matching this year:

World Top 5 Public Business Accelerator – GenerationS by RVC

World #1 Public Business Accelerator – Kerala Startup Mission

The world’s first port and maritime accelerator – PortXL

Learn more about UBI Global’s members in their own words by watching member-produced videos on our YouTube playlist. Just click here!

2021: What’s Next?

The world needs more innovation, and more, and more – and startups on the front lines of innovation must be given resources to withstand challenges like those in 2020. Startups nurtured by our community of business incubators and accelerators are more successful and have longevity in the market, as proven by the World Benchmark Study. This is a testament to the strength and ability of our community members, who will take what they learn from 2020 into 2021 and continue to be the world’s best innovation intelligence community growing the world’s most successful, disruptive startups.

UBI Global member programs that participate in the World Benchmark Study have demonstrated a very important trait; their startups are more successful. With a 5-year average survival rate of 59 percent, UBI Global member programs outperform non-incubated startups by 15 percentage points. The programs in the study supported ventures with over $3.2 billion in sales over the past five years.

Dates to Remember

World Benchmark Study 2021-2022 begins May 2021

for PRO and PREMIUM members only

Individual results will be available in November or December 2021

Official rankings will be released at the World Incubation Summit 2022

(Date and Location to be announced Jan/Feb 2022)

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