As a business incubator professional, I truly enjoy watching entrepreneurs take advantage of the plethora of resources at their disposal within a program – from advice and mentorship to facilities and equipment. VisionGate, a company that has developed innovations for the early detection and prevention of lung cancer, graduated from the Center for Entrepreneurial Innovation (CEI) incubator in Phoenix, Arizona in October 2015 and totally crushed the experience in 3 major ways.
First off, I promise there will be no spoilers of Batman v. Superman in this post, in case you were worried. Instead I am going to try and clear up the (very) muddy waters of entrepreneurial support organizations. With so many options and - as I will illustrate - nuances within those options, it can be very difficult for startups to navigate the world of professional business resources and services. Hopefully, this post helps make it easier.
Earlier this month, Pitchbook released a landmark report which concluded that one-third of all US startups that raised a Series A in 2015 had gone through an accelerator program at some point in their development. Coupled with similarly promising data about business incubators - including one study that noted 40% of early-stage incubatees sourced their investment through connections within the incubator itself - and it appears that joining these types of programs bear long-term financial fruit for growing companies.
I am aware that this may be seem like an unusual topic for somebody who works for a business incubator, but it actually fits very much in line with our philosophy at CEI of trying to elevate our industry in any way that we can. The fact is incubators and accelerators must evolve as fast as the entrepreneurs they serve in order to maintain relevance, and it is something that many fail to do. And I won’t be repeating the 87% stat - the number of companies still in operation after 5 years removed from an incubation program - from a study that was conducted nearly two decades ago but continues to be cited as a leading indicator of success. Indeed, the real value of these startup support organizations has yet to be definitively proven.
Most entrepreneurs understand the value of joining a business incubator or accelerator. The benefits of mentorship, technological infrastructure and facilities, and investment assistance are wonderful resources for startup companies. However, many founders may not always recognize the signs that their business is ready to align with an incubator. Here are a few signals to look for that indicate the timing may be right.
So your startup has decided joined a business incubator or accelerator. You were sold on the benefits and resources it could provide, and you are excited about taking your company or idea to the next level. Now what? How do you maximize your time in the program to ensure a positive experience? Believe it or not, a lot of entrepreneurs do not know how to best engage with their incubator or accelerator; with that in mind, we present our list of ways to operate inside these valuable entrepreneurial support organizations.
Business incubators have been supporting startup companies for more than half a century, providing mentorship, advisement, and other resources to help them survive and grow. The benefits of joining an incubator have been documented at length, but the best testament to their value often comes from the entrepreneurs themselves. Read what Arizona entrepreneurs have to say about their experiences with incubation programs across the state, from northern Arizona (AZ TechCelerator) to Phoenix (Seed Spot, CEI, Arizona State University Entrepreneurship & Innovation) to Tucson (Tech Launch Arizona / University of Arizona).
Startups should select a business incubator or accelerator with the same diligence that they would choose a co-founder, especially given the fact that they will have to live with them (literally!) for a significant period of time. But with the prevalence of numerous programs - the International Business Innovation Association (INBIA) estimates more than 7,000 worldwide - it can be a tall order differentiating between them. Here are the questions you should ask before making your decision:
Topics: Business Incubators
Here are EIGHT amazing facts about business incubators and accelerators and the startups companies they support. And if you don't know, now you know...
Business incubators provide numerous services for entrepreneurs; they provide valuable mentorship and advisement at all stages of a business from validation to commercialization and growth; they typically offer high-tech infrastructure that nurtures innovation and collaboration; and they also offer tremendous guidance in the area of intellectual property. As Mary Juetten, founder/CEO of Traklight - a software-as-a-service (SaaS) company that helps entrepreneurs identify and protect their intellectual property - has stated: IP is the most valuable asset of your business. So here are a few ways in which incubation centers can keep it that way.