Startup incubators are effective programs for early-stage entrepreneurs with high growth potential.
If you are an early-stage entrepreneur, you are learning the importance of a thought-provoking network, a worthwhile mentor, and a supportive environment. These three parts can help you build the empire you dream of building.
What are Startup Incubators? We wrote a blog post about them if you want to learn more - What Are Incubator Programs?
First, let's talk about the benefits of Startup Incubators:
Mentorship - One of the top reasons entrepreneurs join incubator programs is because of the knowledgeable mentors the entrepreneurs are paired with. In The Combine, companies work directly with Program Director, Matt Foley, and the Invest Nebraska team. The team has extensive experience in the startup and venture capital space. This is so beneficial to startups because it provides them with a guide who has seen common mistakes startups make and can set entrepreneurs up on the right path.
Workspace Available - We live in the work-from-home era. Some people love it and others prefer a designated space to cold call, meet with potential customers or investors, or strategize on their next step in business. For the latter, an incubator program typically provides a workspace for companies within the program. This alone can cost hundreds of dollars each month and is a great benefit to being in an incubator.
Environment - Being in an environment where you are around other entrepreneurs who encourage outside-of-the-box problem solving, encourage innovation and understand what you are going through, can leave a substantial impact on other entrepreneurs. Entrepreneurship can be a lonely business - incubators help that.
Networking Opportunities - Networking is an important part of building a startup. Others have thought of different ways to approach problems, have gone through similar trials, and could be potential investors. By having mentor swarms, recommended meetings, and other networking events, you may just meet someone who is going to help you build the business you dream of building.
While there are substantial benefits of being in an incubator, they're not right for everyone. Here are a few points to consider before applying to an incubator:
Do you have the time? Incubator programs expect you to give your best to your business. While most programs don't require it to be your full-time position, they still expect you to put in the work that is going to grow and improve your company.
Does the incubator require equity in your company? Some incubator programs will require a percentage of your company for entry into an incubator. The Combine does not do this. As an entrepreneur, you'll want to be sure that the support you are gaining will be worth the equity.
Is your company a better fit for a startup accelerator instead of an incubator? Incubators and accelerators have many similarities, but they are still very different programs. Make sure to do your research on accelerator programs, as well as incubation programs.
According to Forbes, here are points to consider:
Industry specific incubators can be strict in their geographic location and selection criteria. The effort in competing for a spot in such incubators is well worth the effort. As an exercise, applying to one might be a good way to prepare your concept/team/product and test how viable they are.
Homework: Research the basics of startup funding and Interview the incubator. There are many things that need to be considered. A good fit is a subjective (team, vibe, culture, etc.) and an objective (industry focus, equity stake, resources, et.al) consideration. Visit the incubator and stay around to get a sense of the work style and culture.
Written clarity: Would be helpful if founders (and team) have a clear understanding of the effort put, rewards expected and roles envisioned. A clarity established in writing will save much head (and heart) aches later.
References: Seek references of past startups (failed and successful) at the incubator. This should be an educating experience.
Networks: Join relevant support networks like Meetup and organizations like The Indus Entrepreneurs (TiE) to learn more about local incubators and to reach out to their extensive networks.
The Combine is an industry-specific incubator. Specifically focused on AgTech, The Combine provides startups with resources, a network, and expertise in the agriculture and technology industry. Invest Nebraska’s Combine Incubator is a statewide initiative focused on supporting high-growth agri-food entrepreneurs through mentoring, commercialization support, physical incubation space on Nebraska's Innovation Campus, and a network of supporting farmers and ranchers across the state. Invest Nebraska is a private, non-profit statewide venture development organization focused on high-growth companies in Nebraska and growing the state’s entrepreneurial economy. Invest Nebraska works directly with entrepreneurs, researchers, and companies to help commercialize their technologies, launch and grow new businesses, and access needed capital.
The Combine Incubator Program would not be possible without our sponsors!
Prashar, B. (2013, April 14). Pros and cons of joining an incubator. Retrieved March 04, 2021, from https://www.forbes.com/sites/bhrigupankajprashar/2013/04/12/pros-and-cons-of-joining-an-incubator/?sh=2039761f4483