What do people need from an incubator when starting a business ?
Over the last six years I have visited, be a participant of and worked in an startup Incubator. So I have had the opportunity to see it from all sides. The one thing I learnt very early on was it’s not about the physical space. Those with the most colourful, innovative decor or largest wall hanging tended to be the worst. Those that I liked focused on a few important things, so lets consider them in the right order:
The opportunity to network and be associated with a network is the most important factor. Entrepreneurs that do well network, it provides co-founders, investors, customers and the most importantly great staff. So having this provided on a plate to you, when starting out, is the golden egg which your business should be incubated in.
Most people who run incubators have never started or run a business, so having a mentor is very important in creating perspective, inspiration and raw guidance. The mentor and mentee should be trained to understand the expectations placed on the each other. The selection of the mentor should be based on the stage of the business, business sector and the location of the entrepreneur. Having more than one mentor should also be encouraged.
It’s important that formal meeting space, serendipitous meetings and water cooler moments are all facilitated within the incubator. The majority of business people today expect to meet in a cafe or open space but a closed space is also needed for formal meetings. The hot desking should have great wifi.
Having people who can support you when things don’t go as expected is important. The ability to ask someone who can sign post you to additional support, grants, loans and people is so important when starting out, pivoting and trying to bootstrap your business. When selecting an incubator, do the staff seam helpful and knowledgeable.
Skills Development Events
In the process of starting a business most people learn new skills naturally, but don’t know it and need reminded of the distance covered. Some people need organised session whereby they develop skills and knowledge which will be needed in the future, next month/year. The majority of incubators will have a speaker series to support this.
Most people don’t need that much, if you are outside London, the costs of living is less. If the office is free then it’s just some living expenses and then some Stuff to move the business forward. However access to finance at various stages is important to scale businesses and the staff should be able to support you in this endeavour.
Free or Discounted Stuff
Most businesses need a tool bag of stuff which can help them more forward their business. This may include websites, accounting software, payment solutions, discounted travel, …etc. Its also helpful if the incubator can recommend software solutions for you, saving you the research space and money.
The important factors in starting a business are sometimes softer that you think. Its not always Money, Staff and 1000 sq ft office space. It may just be a cup of tea with someone who has done it before and has a story to tell.