Articles and Advice

Is a business incubator right for my startup?

There are some situations where ignorance is bliss.

Business IncubationLaunching your new startup is not one of those situations. If you’re at the helm of a fledgling startup, ignorance can be incredibly costly. And if you’re an entrepreneur toiling away on your new venture, the most valuable resource you have is time.  The most likely scenario is that you are trying to fit working on your startup in between a full-time job and life’s multitude of commitments.  Time is something you can’t afford to waste.

While it’s important to invest time in developing a good idea, it’s just as important to stop yourself from investing time in developing a bad idea. Figuring out whether you have a good idea or a bad idea (as quickly as possible) is the most valuable service business incubation provides. We call it failing fast! That moment when you realise that perhaps there are too many competitors, that the market may not want to buy your new product or service, or that you simply can’t get the necessary funding to see your project to fruition.

What does a business incubator offer?

For those who hate wasting time, a business incubator will save you heaps of it by putting your idea in front of people who can help you to quickly determine whether you have a success or a failure on your hands.

A business incubator (sometimes called an accelerator) is an organisation whose primary function is to support startup or fledgling companies.  An incubator provides a range of resources and services that help turn an idea into a business.

Many business incubators not only offer access to mentors but also access to other critical resources like legal and marketing assistance, seed money and the ability to put a business idea in front of early-stage investors.

Why use a business incubator?

Shortens the learning curve

Access to experts across a range of fields and industries shortens the amount of time you’ll need to spend on learning something new.  Whether it’s understanding how to market your business or knocking on doors in industries you’re unfamiliar with, there will be somebody within the incubator who has done it all before.  What could take a freshie like yourself months, or even years, happens much faster when you have a team with a huge range of experience behind you.

Makes the road less painful

The journey of a startup sometimes feels like a long and lonely way.  Working with a business incubator gives you some clout.  Access to third parties like media outlets or tech partners is easier when you have high-flying allies.  Access to the skills within an incubator can also help streamline simple admin tasks, allowing you to get on with the creative, entrepreneurial stuff.

It’s ok if you’re fresh

Many business investors are unwilling to get in with a new venture until it has established itself in some way.  They may want to see a prototype or manufacturing processes in place, or they may want to see sales results.  Incubators are used to working with businesses in their infancy, so in turn have access to mentors and investors who are looking to work with startups at the early stages.

Idea Validation = Confidence

This is the holy grail of business incubation.  A huge amount of confidence is gained when those in the know confirm that your idea is a good one.  Having your idea validated is the first and most vital step in propelling it to the next level.  Once you have validation for your idea you can move onto the acceleration of your business.

Not all incubators are created equal

An increase in the number of organisations providing business incubation and acceleration doesn’t necessarily mean that life has become easier for entrepreneurs.  Traditional business incubators raise some barriers to entry for many startups.  Some incubators charge huge amounts for their services and some incubators require startups to meet criteria before being accepted.  It’s worth looking for a business incubator that is flexible and also offers good value for money – something that is vitally important in those early days without cash flow.

Queenstown-based South Inc credits much of its success on its ability to offer an ‘easy access’ incubation model.  By providing services that are tailor-made to the needs of the startup, South Inc is unique amongst the standard incubation offering.  The company aims to provide a service that is not only about funding but also about identifying areas where the entrepreneur needs extra help.  South Inc helps in areas like marketing, financial advice and creative thinking.  South Inc also has experience in building crowd-equity or Kickstarter campaigns.

Many business incubators offer a ‘one size fits all’ approach.  It’s more important that the incubator you work with has the ability to prop you up in areas where you are lacking.  Take the time to find an incubator that will meet your expectations.  A generic solution won’t do this.

From now and ever on

Time for lift-off.  Once your idea has been scrutinised, analysed, tweaked and validated, it’s ready for launch.  At this point, the chances are you won’t regret your incubator experience (or the confidence and conviction that comes with it).  From a solid foundation and a clear vision in place, and the organisation is ready for acceleration.