In one episode I welcomed someone widely known in the Oregon startup community. The Founder of PIE which stands for the Portland Incubator Experience, and that is what I will focus on today: business incubators.
What are business incubators, why is it important, and why should an entrepreneur care?
A business incubator is an organization that helps startup companies and individual entrepreneurs to develop their businesses by providing a full-scale range of services starting with management training and office space and ending with venture capital financing.
Now the strategy behind the creation of an incubator can vary widely. From physical spaces like a conference room to virtual spaces such as a zoom call.
How ever the group intends to assemble makes little different because the strategy remains the same: jumpstart a business model that already exists.
One of the best known is Stanford’s d.school. The d.school, according to their mission statement, helps people develop creative abilities. It’s a place, a community, and a mindset. In short, it is an 8-course business incubator.
So how does this all work. As I mentioned these incubators help support the development of start-ups through mentorship and advisory and administrative support.
According to the International Business Innovation Association, an incubator's primary objective is to produce successful and financially viable firms that can survive on their own.
These incubators are here to help the local economy and entrepreneurs succeed! From financial management like understanding overhead expenses, such as utilities, office equipment rentals, and receptionist services, to management support, tapping into mentors’ and advisors’ network of entrepreneurs, executives, and venture capitalists.
However, a business incubator does not need to be a formal establishment. In fact, an incubator could be established right where you may be listening to this podcast now: a car ride, a gym, work.
The goal is to surround oneself with expertise who are willing to help in a space the business is trying to grow. And these professionals do not need to be in the same industry.
For example: one of my best friends works in the shoe industry; I work in healthcare – we bounce ideas off each other all the time because of our different prospective on business. I want to ask him questions that are challenging to me to see what solutions he may think of.
For me, it is like gaining access to a professional resource because the way the shoe industry may solve problems may not be the same as the healthcare industry.
Take an NFL players for example. Many of those individuals will take up boxing during the offseason. Why? Because NFL players are looking to gain insight in endurance, how to avoid getting hit, footwork techniques when in the pocket, hand speed when blocking.
That is what an incubator is – cross training with other professionals. Knowing we do not know everything as an entrepreneur it is important, and we must be willing to reach out to other professionals for help.
Players like Russell Wilson and Mark Ingram are paying boxing trainer Freddy Roach to punch another player wearing a helmet; they are paying to learn new skills that are applicable to their professional to create success.
So get out there, network with professionals outside of your profession, ask questions to problems that may be difficult to solve, heck ask questions to problems you have already solved!
That’s the point of an incubator – sharing ideas with others to make them better.