Written by Irina Belsky
No matter how amazing your business idea is, it will fail unless you get the necessary knowledge and support to grow it.
This is something that many startup entrepreneurs struggle with, especially if they are not in touch with the entrepreneur scene, don’t come from a business background and don’t have mentors to guide them.
People are your best resource and one of the best ways to gain access to this resource (apart from networking) is to become part of a business incubator.
Incubators provide SMEs and startups with a physical space to work on their business in an environment where they can have access to business advice and support. They are often funded by companies, angel investors or public institutions such as universities. If you are just starting out with your business, an incubator may help you to get advice and establish a physical presence without incurring large costs.
- Mentorship and business tools
An incubator allows you to have your business questions answered more quickly and efficiently and puts business resources within an arm’s reach.
- Being surrounded by like-minded people
Instead of working in isolation and spending time on connecting with other entrepreneurs outside working hours you can be surrounded by people who are driven by the same passion. This in itself can be an amazing motivation source to keep you going, despite any difficulties!
- Low cost office space
It’s expected that any well respected business has a physical space it inhabits to facilitate interactions with clients or potential partners/investors/affiliates. An incubator gives you such a physical presence at a low cost without binding you in a long term contract.
- Startup acceleration programs
Some incubators have structured programs to guide promising startups through the early business stage. Such programs can provide you with recommendations to investors, a team to work on your idea, mentorship and other opportunities.
5. Other useful resources include:
- wireless internet
- black & white and colour printers, photocopier, fax, scanner, binding equipment
- use of conference rooms
- AV equipment and meeting rooms
- mail collection/distribution
- car parking space
- kitchen facilities
The Incubator Scene
Green Lane Digital [the incubator behind iPitch.com.au] is a team of established entrepreneurs who incubate online, digital and mobile startups. Green Lane Digital focuses on working with seed and early stage businesses and provides capital, a structuring mentoring program, resources and an office space. You can contact Green Lane Digital directly via their website in order to apply.
ilab focuses on technology ventures and hosts selected startups in an environment that facilitates fast and efficient growth. The office space provided by ilab has affordable short term monthly agreements for users. In addition ilab gives you access to the entrepreneurial network, including information about relevant educational events and mentors. To be considered you must apply online and satisfy the eligibility criteria.
StartPad is a combined initiative from the University of Wollongong and the Wollongong City Council. It is an ideas incubator where entrepreneurs will have access to business development support and a flexible space required for creative work.
The StartPad application process is more formal than the process of other incubators mentioned previously and includes a pitch and a Q&A session as well as a written application process.
The University of New South Wales provides a low cost incubator space for UNSW students and alumni who wish to develop their ideas. Entrepreneurs using the space will be able to have it for up to twelve months but the prerequisites to having access include not being engaged in significant commercial operations (the turnover must be less than $20k per month) and not having raised more than $250K in equity financing.
This business incubator offers technology entrepreneurs standard serviced offices and laboratories, including labs, clean rooms and manufacturing spaces. They can be hired out on monthly contracts which means you can regulate your costs.
Startmate is a group of startup executives who offer mentorship and financing to internet and software startups in Australia. This includes a three month program with a $25 000 investment and a weekly mentoring sessions as well as a trip to Silicon Valley. For more information about the program you can contact StartMate through their website.
Pollenizer is a business incubator that covers tech, customer development, product, Design and Operations. It provides participant entrepreneurs with a structured program within the incubator, including a core team and access to mentors and investors. To be part of Pollenizer you must fill out an application form that focuses on your business idea.
Like StartMate, this Melbourne based incubator has a three month mentoring program and a $ 20 000 investment to go with it. The selection process has two stages- the written application and an interview before a panel of judges.
Incubator Supported Startups
Here are some examples of startups that began their development in an incubator environment.
Current Incubator Opportunities
Some incubators have cut off dates for applications while others take in entrepreneurs all year round. Below are some of the incubators that are currently accepting applications from startups.
If you’ve decided you want to find an incubator to work on your startup, make sure you do some research to find the right place for you. If you’re not too worried about making connections and making use of mentors you can simply choose a co-working space that still gives you the opportunity to house your business is a physical space.
On the other hand if you are interested in connecting with the entrepreneurial network, growing your business and potentially your team you may want to consider an incubator that has specialised business programs. Before applying for a spot, also have a look at what startups have come out of the incubator and what startups currently reside there. After all, these are the people you are going to be around, so the more relevant their business is to yours, the more value you can get from working together.