Incubators are the perfect nurturing environments for growing startups with little to no traction. They provide the resources, early funding, mentorships, and space for a business to grow during early stages. The overall goal of an incubator is to reduce of growing and establishing the business, as well as shorten the time it takes to move a business from concept to a well-oiled machine.
You may not realize this, but many of the companies you know and love were grown in incubators. This includes Airbnb, DropBox, DoorDash, Reddit, and many more. If you’re a business still in seed stage, it could be a great opportunity. Here are a few reasons why your startup should participate in an incubator program.
Getting accepted into an incubator program isn’t easy. The most popular programs filter through thousands of applications two or three times per year, searching for the brightest ideas and talent. In fact, with acceptance rates under 5%, both AngelPad and Y Combinator are statistically more difficult to get into than Harvard. Acceptance to one of these programs is validation that you’re on a great path and have a solid company on your hands. And with the incubator’s seal of approval, you can overcome many hurdles.
Networking can be instrumental to a business that’s just getting off the ground. You’ll need to put your startup in front of as many people as possible and get advice from people in all types of different backgrounds. During the early stages, think of networking as a currency. Your startup team will network with other incubator participants, mentors, and visitors hosting events.
Furthermore, many incubators have a long list of advisors and mentors on their website, and though you may not get to see all of them during the duration of your program, you can ask for an introduction. After all, the team behind the incubator have built up their program by networking on their own, and are invested in seeing your business succeed. If they can help you out with the right introduction, they’ll be more than happy to do it.
Funding can be a major lifeline for any new business, and incubators are able to provide that. Typically, an incubator will provide startups with a certain amount of capital in exchange for a small piece of equity. The exact numbers vary from program to program. TechStars, for example, offers $20,000 in exchange for 6% equity, and $100,000 in the form of a convertible note, which can be used at your discretion.
Y Combinator, on the other hand, invests $150,000 on a post-money safe in return for 7% of the company when the safe converts. Then there are of course other resources which don’t always have numerical value. For example, many programs consider a startup alumni after they’ve left, and alumni have access to the incubators resource for life. They have access to mentors, legal support, and much more.
In terms of funding, Demo Day is perhaps one of the biggest benefits of an incubator program. During Demo Day, you have the opportunity to pitch your startup to a room full of investors. Many programs have their stats available online to help you learn more about the success of other companies who have joined their programs. For example, TechStars alumni have, on average, gone on to raise $2 million in capital after the program has been completed.
Gain Expertise in Other Areas
If you’re a programmer, chances are you don’t know much about marketing and SEO. At an incubator, you have access to a group of versatile talent; some of that talent comes from your peers, while others come from your mentors. Incubators host a series of classes and weekly events to help your business grow in areas where you might be weak.
For instance, let’s say you’ve developed an app to make vehicles safer on the road for new drivers. Did you know there’s automotive SEO specific to your industry? How well-versed are you with keyword research? As an entrepreneur, you’re expected to be well-rounded, but you also have to know which strengths and strategies are best outsourced, and how to identify the best third-party resources when necessary.
Finding a reliable, consistent place to work with your startup team isn’t easy. Coworking spaces can chip away at your budget, and random spaces in your home are good in theory but not in practice. Incubators provide you with office space, meeting rooms, common areas for networking, and much more. With so much valuable space at your disposal, you’re able to get things done quicker. Working in an atmosphere with other startups can also prove particularly motivating.