Tag Archives: Incubator

Student Led Incubators

There is always a real need to get student involved in Enterprise and Entrepreneurship within the university. They have a real need for enterprise skills and developing it into an Entrepreneurial career or a full blown Entrepreneur.

So on a recent visit to the the Tianjin Urban Construction Management Vocational Technology College, we had the opportunity to visit their incubator.

This college is looking at developing Energy Entrepreneurship, developing new businesses which address saving energy or using it in a more effective way, especially within China.


So the real surprise was the cafe within the business incubator was run by Students for Students and business owners. We had the chance to meet the three owners of the business and provide some advice and support. The development of this student led cafe provides a real insight into both the management of the college and also the students within it.

The management have placed trust in the students to start, run and make a success of the cafe. This has resulted in:

1, Trusting students is such an important part of Entrepreneurship and we sometime forget to place this on students.

2, The students have taken a opportunity to run the cafe, something which every student on campus will have an opinion about. I know many students wouldn’t do this as their peers would look down on them or have something to say. The risks and rewards associated with this is a great lesson, but the greatest one is that these students have the largest network on campus.

3, Having a go, should always provide winners, as experience of entrepreneurship will ensure students leave with more skills that we educators could ever teach them.


The cafe was the centre of the business incubator and so made it student led, the cafe was the heart of the space, just as it should be.

So when we arrange, we were saw a great space being used by other students and it was the centre of campus live. So good luck.


Startup Incubator Best practice

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:

Business Networking

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.

Flexible Space

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.

Friendly Support

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.

Funding Support

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.