Is Incubating right for your Startup?
By Matthijs Keij, FastCompany
Incubators are taking root across the world, offering startups guidance and resources. In essence, incubators are home to angel investors, venture capitalists, and others who are able to mentor entrepreneurs. Many also offer tangible resources such as accounting assistance, office space, and legal guidance.
Having this business infrastructure in place allows your startup to focus on what matters most–the core business, not the mundane, day-to-day administrative responsibilities.
As a member of a specialized incubator myself, I’ve reaped many benefits. My company is a spinoff of two European online advertising agencies, and we’re both part of the same business accelerator. (A note on accelerators vs. incubators: Although incubators and accelerators both help businesses grow, incubators assist companies in their infancy, whereas accelerators guide organizations through future expansion and development.)
One of the biggest benefits of being part of an incubator is the ability to tap into a strong network of business partners. In my case, I can say with certainty that several of our current media and tech partners wouldn’t have worked with us if we had just been out there on our own. Some required large financial commitments, while others considered it too risky to work with a one-month-old startup. But we were able to overcome those obstacles because we were part of an incubator.
Imagine being part of a support system that allowed you to learn from the mistakes of others before you made them yourself.
A powerhouse network can also be beneficial from a public relations perspective. There is only so much you can do as a startup with a limited marketing and PR budget, but, for us, being part of a group of companies has helped us gain traction and step into the spotlight. This, in turn, has also strengthened our ability to scout leads and opportunities.
As a technology company, it is important for us to frequently release new analytics and optimization capabilities. It’s even more important that we learn from client feedback to make our platform better. Our direct access to two other agencies within our accelerator has proved to be extremely beneficial and enabled us to do more aggressive product development and rigorous testing–something that would have been more difficult and time consuming if not for the incubator.
There are a lot of lessons entrepreneurs have to learn the hard way. Making errors and learning from mistakes is a valuable learning experience, but imagine being part of a support system that allowed you to learn from the mistakes of others before you made them yourself.
Our mentors have been entrepreneurs themselves and, as such, have been able to challenge and help further define our vision, strategy, and road map. They weren’t able to do this because of a business school degree earned at an Ivy League school, but thanks to their personal experiences in the trenches.
Being part of an incubator or accelerator can play a huge role in growing your startup. In our case, it has jump-started our company and brought us where we are today. We are now in the position to fly solo, yet we know we didn’t get here alone. The value that our mentors have brought us has been instrumental to our success, and we look forward to helping other new startups succeed in the future.
The Greater Peterborough Innovation Cluster is a not-for-profit organization with a mission to strengthen Peterborough’s regional innovation capacity by bridging the gap between scientific research and business. The Cluster brings Together talent, knowledge, and investment to drive technology-based economic development, innovation-driven economic growth and high-tech job creation across the Peterborough region by supporting entrepreneurship, innovation, commercialization and new company formation & growth [see “The Cube” for further information on how we help start-ups]. The Cluster also partners with academia and industry and provides support to start-up technology companies and entrepreneurs to help take innovative ideas and processes to market and to foster an economy fueled by 21st century innovation-driven entrepreneurship. Core funding for the Cluster is generously provided by our partners: Ontario Centres of Excellence, Trent University, Fleming College and the Peterborough Region Angel Network.
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See also: “Demystifying the Innovation Cluster: It’s no big mystery – it’s a cluster and it exists to assist“