Recently I’ve spent time deconstructing the value-add a startup should get from an incubator/accelerator (note that I say should — all too often incubators are simple dog and pony shows aimed solely at getting a startup to their next round of funding).
I strongly believe the main value any program should deliver for you is to reduce risk. Startups are inherently risky; reducing risk and thus increasing the chance of success is the best a program can do for you. This should happen by:
- Rounding out the skill set (startup founders usually don’t have a completely developed skill set; adding skills through structured and tailored learning experiences can significantly reduce this risk factor)
- Rounding out the team (similar to the skill set topic startup teams often are incomplete; adding temporary skills to the team (through incubator-provided personnel) and helping to recruit for the gaps is a huge opportunity to reduce risk)
- Accelerate growth (what can be done to shorten the cycles? Usually this can be achieved by providing hands-on support, teaching better processes and methodologies, etc)
- Funding (this is probably least important if you get the other factors right — as a good idea with a stellar team usually doesn’t have a problem finding funding)
Take this list with you when you select an incubation program and make sure you get what you pay for (remember: you pay with hard, cold equity for their services — you are the customer, demand to be treated like one).