Here are a few things to consider as you go about looking at deciding whether to work with a business incubator.
Deciding Whether to Work With a Business Incubator
Some entrepreneurs shy away from small business incubators because they feel they don't need the help. Smart entrepreneurs take all the help they can get and recognize that small business incubators allow them to focus on the highest-priority tasks and can make their entrepreneurial lives much easier.
An entrepreneur who spends his or her time reviewing an employee manual or overseeing the implementation of an accounting system is on the path to failure. That's because the competitors are busy with more important things -- making a better product, signing up companies, or getting acquired by the market's only 800-lb. gorilla. The business incubation process at Gaebler Ventures provides assistance on the mundane but the real value-add of our business incubator is the strategic counsel we provide.
Physical Business Incubators Versus Virtual Business Incubators
Many small business incubators require that a business co-locate within their facility but virtual business incubators are also useful.
With respect to business incubators, the term "virtual" is used to denote clients that are primarily served via computer and Web-based programs that bring together networks of people and other resources. This allows an incubator to serve client companies that are not housed in any central location.
With a virtual business incubator, you know that the incubator's goal is not simply to collect rent -- it's to create viable, prosperous and fast-growth businesses. At the same time, it can be tough to get as much out of a virtual incubator. It's like taking an online college course versus taking an in-class course on campus. The two experiences are very different.
Value Add of Business Incubators
The value add of business incubators is very specific to any given business incubator. Frankly, some are better than others.
A good business incubator will help you envision the end-game for your venture and then work backwards in time to understand exactly what has to happen and when it has to happen. They'll work with you to create a comprehensive business plan and a tight financial model for the business that defines all of the milestones that you need to achieve to be successful.
For example, you and the business incubator staff might determine that by Year Two, you need to have a strategic partnership with either Microsoft or Sun Microsystems. Eighteen months into the venture, a good business incubator will be working its network of contacts at Microsoft and Sun on your behalf. They will be working side by side with you, the entrepreneur, to make sure that your arguments for the partnership are compelling and helping you to get the deal done.
You should expect nothing less of a good business incubator, but don't forget: you need to push your business incubator hard in order to get the best results. If you don't speak up, you won't get the help you need.