three professionals sitting at a table with laptops
Startup incubators can help businesses get off the ground by providing networking and mentorship opportunities. — Getty Images/Estradaanton

You’ve put together your business plan and you’re prepared to launch your startup — but you still don’t feel ready enough to do so. Where do you go from here?

One way to get your business off the ground is by joining a startup incubator, which will help develop your brand so it’s ready for launch. Here are the basics you need to know about startup incubators — including types and benefits — so you can invest in the right one for your business.

What is a startup incubator?

A startup incubator is a collaborative program for startup companies — usually physically located in one central workspace — designed to help startups in their infancy succeed by providing workspace, seed funding, mentoring and training.

Startup incubators are usually nonprofit organizations, often associated with universities and business schools who extend invitations to students, alumni and members of the community to take advantage of the program. Some popular incubator programs include Y Combinator, TechStars and Excelerate Labs.

According to SCORE, incubators often provide access to the resources needed to launch a business. This may include office space and equipment, utilities (including internet service) and discounted or free professional services, such as accounting and legal help.

One of the greatest benefits of an incubator is the access it provides to a network of successful business partners.

What are the benefits of a startup incubator?

Beyond basic business resources, there are many benefits of joining a startup incubator:

  • Networking. One of the greatest benefits of an incubator is the access it provides to a network of successful business partners, many of whom usually require substantial financial commitments to be part of your venture. The overall exposure these networks provide is another plus, as most startups have limited marketing and PR budgets.
  • Mentorship. Incubators offer members the opportunity to hear and learn from the personal experiences of successful mentors in their chosen industry. While making mistakes along the way to success is an expected part of the process, these mentors are there to help you avoid making similar ones they’ve made when they were just starting out.
  • Support from other entrepreneurs. The opportunities and experiences you’ll share with the other members of the incubator group can help you launch your business more quickly and smoothly as opposed to trying to do so on your own. Speaking with and learning from other entrepreneurs can be the inspiration you need to push yourself — and each other — to reach the next benchmarkers of success.

Deciding to join a startup incubator

There are a couple of things to consider when deciding whether to join an incubator. Incubators provide a long-term opportunity for entrepreneurs looking to launch a brand-new venture, so if your business is in the early stages, the networking, mentorship and support benefits can prove valuable.

Also, it’s important to keep in mind that no two incubators are the same. According to SCORE, there are many different types of incubators to choose from, including:

  • For-profit incubators, who typically look to eventually monetize their equity in your company.
  • Not-for-profit incubators, who typically help grow your business to improve the local economy.
  • County-, state- and university-operated incubators.

Do your due diligence by ensuring you are choosing the right match for your company’s needs.

CO— aims to bring you inspiration from leading respected experts. However, before making any business decision, you should consult a professional who can advise you based on your individual situation.

Published July 29, 2019