startup incubator program

Lesson One Learned The Hard Way in a Startup Incubator Program

Startup Incubator | Incubators are more open-ended than accelerators, and aren’t usually designed to rapidly boost growth. Instead, incubators nurture and mentor startups over longer periods of time – over a year.

While accelerators want to pay close attention to each startup, incubators provide ad-hoc help with legal and business services, as well as help turning a concept into something with product-market fit.

There are lessons you can learn from Startup Incubator Program. Check these out!

  1. Support 

A good incubator support you to grow your business for the sake of the local economy or monetize equity in new companies that they support. This includes assistance with business basics resources, work essentials such as office space, internet, digital marketing activities, and more.

  1. Mentorship

Incubators offer advice and capital to steer you in the right direction. Through their mentorship programs, young entrepreneurs are helped to avoid making costly mistakes as they grow their businesses.

  1. Networking Opportunities

An incubator provide founders with numerous networking opportunities, team-building occasions with fellow entrepreneurs as well as a robust business partner network.

Competition Is a Gift

  1. Competition Is a gift

When you start a startup, the very notion of competition can be intimidating. Instead, an accelerator will teach you to embrace the value of competitors. 

  1. Speed Is your superpower

One thing startups do have going for them is speed, you learn to embrace this as your core advantage to outperform competitors. This speed enables startups to launch products in a matter of months or even weeks. Startups have to respond quickly to customers’ evolving expectations, so when we learned that a customer was evaluating a competitor to replace us, we acted at the speed of light to meet their needs. We built new features on nights and weekends and within two weeks we had surpassed the customer’s initial ask and leapfrogged the competitor. The customer was so impressed with our responsiveness that they upped their contract size. It’s those “code red” moments that truly move forward your product. Speed is what gives startups their most important advantage over large players.

  1. Customer development Is face to face

Many first-time entrepreneurs learn that this is in fact  the “lean” way of building products that address a pain point. Thanks to all the resources you have access to – including mentors, customers and potential investors – an incubator is one of the best ways to build your customer strategy.

  1. Culture is an absolute must

At big companies, tech recruiting tends to focus more on hard skills and less on cultural fit. As a result, they hire qualified people who don’t necessarily have the leadership skills or passion to advance their organization. However, personality fit is much more critical at startups, due to their close-knit work culture. Building our startup at Techstars, we began to understand the importance of hiring missionary leaders, driven by purpose, rather than mercenary leaders, or opportunists focused on money.

We learned that the hard way when we hired a brilliant, award-winning employee without evaluating the cultural fit. Unfortunately, we realized we didn’t share the same vision or leadership principles, so despite his smarts, we had to part ways. At any startup, while the technical bar is very high, the experience is intimate, and thus requires a unique kind of dedication. As such, entrepreneurs need to focus tremendously on cultural fit, and finding missionaries, not mercenaries, as they expand their teams.

Adjust Work Style and Get Comfortable

For many, the steep learning curve of an accelerator is the perfect bridge from being a corporate employee to becoming a startup founder. You quickly have to adjust your work style, get comfortable with the lack of a safety net, understand how to differentiate from competition and grow your ideal team. Find the right accelerator, and it will give you a crash course in running a startup so when the time comes to run the business — you won’t need to crash.

Incubators usually provide office space and consultations with experts, but take a more laid-back approach. There’s no intense program here — just an environment of collaboration and support when needed.

Examples of incubators include 500 Startups and Amplify.LA.

Is an incubator right for my startup?

If your company is not ready to join an accelerator program, an incubator might be the answer. Incubators help startups solve technical and design issues when building the product, learn how to run lean, and build a successful team.

Incubators also help startups who don’t have experience operating a venture-backed startup or are up against legal and operational issues related to company structure, etc.

Incubators usually don’t require equity or put as much pressure on success as accelerators, but also don’t offer capital. It’s all a trade-off.

To summarize: if your company is very early stage and needs help getting past the idea stage, an incubator is the better fit versus an accelerator.

Incubators can run anywhere from 6 months to 5 years, which gives teams a lot more time to grapple with the problem their business is solving (albeit usually in a lower-touch environment).

Incubators are less rigid with applications than accelerators, so the process is harder to generalize; check the FAQs of incubators in your local area for specifics.

Incubators don’t traditionally offer capital to startups, instead offering office space, mentorship and partner opportunities. Because no capital is given, incubators don’t ask for a cut of equity.

The formal concept of business incubation began in the US in 1959 when Joseph L. Mancuso opened the Batavia Industrial Center in a Batavia, New York, warehouse. Incubation expanded in the U.S. in the 1980s and spread to the UK and Europe through various related forms.

Incubation activity has not been limited to developed countries; incubation environments are now being implemented in developing countries and raising interest for financial support from organizations such as UNIDO and the World Bank.

Get Powerful Connections & Build Strong Business Partner

Although not all successful businesses passed through incubation programs, it’s recommended that young entrepreneurs work with an incubator because they will show you several shortcuts. You will also get powerful connections, introduce you to investors, and help you build a strong business partner network.

startup accelerators

Most Succesful Startup Accelerators in The World, What are They Doing Right

Nothing is easy at the beginning. There are processes and struggles but we can imitate from what is done and the lessons shared by successful Startup Accelerators in The World.

1. Solving real problems.

Spenser Skates, co-founder and CEO of Amplitude, says that the most important factor for a startup comes at the very beginning: figuring out exactly what problem your customers need you to solve.

In the early days of a startup, founders need to prioritize talking to potential customers and really understanding their problem so that they can help solve it. In fact, customer feedback has remained essential to Amplitude’s product development and company success.

2. Staying focused 

Will Canine, cofounder and CPO at Opentrons, has taken his company through two tech accelerators. The first was Hax, a hardware-focused accelerator based in Shenzhen, China. Then, Opentrons was accepted to Y Combinator, which is really what put the company on the launch pad.

“Probably our biggest learning that comes with it is focus. Having clear, concrete goals and a strategy for getting there keeps everyone in the company on the same page, working toward the same thing. “Once you feel the clarity of this type of focus–and see the huge advantages in productivity and progress it gives–you will never want to work any other way.

3. Leadership, values, and culture set you apart.

Having a great idea is only part of the battle, says Fred Stevens-Smith, cofounder and CEO of Rainforest QA. To make your company truly impressive, it’s all about the human element.

Another thing Stevens-Smith appreciated about the tech accelerator experience was simply the networking, learning, and camaraderie that came built in.  being a CEO is hard. Building a company is hard. For everyone. It’s easy when you’re inside the founder journey to think that you’re exceptionally bad compared to your peers, so it’s crucial to see that other founders are experiencing the same rollercoaster as you are.”

4. Be intentional about figuring out how to scale–in all aspects of the business.

The eventual goal of any startup is to grow, of course. To Vivek Ravisankar, cofounder & CEO of HackerRank, buckling down and learning how to scale has been critical.

“Agility is important at scale. It’s easy to do this when you are a three-person company, but how do you do this, and make sure people are aligned with the company proposition and values, when you are 100?

“Hiring people at scale. The bar is extremely high for the first 10 hires. The most important part is figuring out how to maintain this bar at scale.

“Customer love. When you’re first starting out, it’s extremely important to make 10 customers happy. But how do you do this for 100 customers, 500 customers, 1,000+ customers?”

The earlier you start thinking about how to scale your company, the better you’ll be able to grow. “These lessons were very instrumental in the early days of founding HackerRank,” says Ravisankar.

5. Pay attention to what people want, not just what you think they want.

The more transparent you are about what you’re trying to create, the more time you’ll have to gauge the reactions of your target audience. Segment cofounder and CEO Peter Reinhardt experienced this during his time for program Startup Accellerators.

6. Lean on your mentors. When you’ve made it, pay it forward.

Startup founders may feel like they have to bootstrap their companies all on their own. But you’ll get further if you embrace the power of mentorship and learn from those who’ve gone through the process before you.