How To Apply For Your First Startup Incubator – expert tips
Startup incubators have started popping up everywhere and have become a great first step for entrepreneurs, and their fledgling startups over the past few years.
These incubators typically offer a period of mentoring and training to help you build a solid foundation for your startup, and ensure you survive and thrive.
With so many incubators on the market it can be difficult to know what to look out for. The blurring of lines between incubators and accelerators makes it even more difficult to judge which is best for you.
There are many different models with some startup incubators charging a service fee whilst others take equity in return for seed funding. Some are even completely free!
Here are 4 questions to ask yourself when applying to your first startup incubator:
1. What does your business need right now?
Understanding what the business needs are, in the next 6 months, is crucial to being able to pick the right startup incubator.
Most businesses at incubator stage are still looking for product / market fit, but they often overlook that crucial aspect of the business and jump to the sexier goals of trying to gain traction or raise funding. Both of which are much easier once you have successfully found a solid product / market fit.
I’d advise startups to find an experienced mentor (who has worked with numerous early stage startups – that have had a degree of success) to help them plot their short term and long term goals.
2. What’s on offer?
Now you know what your business needs, you can now match that to what’s on offer. Get a list of startup incubators/accelerators from which you can filter down.
There is no point focussing on raising funding if your business is nowhere near that stage.
Check what the incubators programme curriculum focus is, check if the location is viable for you and your business, take a look at the types of mentors that they have and speak to alumni.
3. What does it cost?
Not always monetary. Check if you’d be giving up equity or paying a fee for services. Make sure you understand any terms before entering into any agreement – Ensure you run any contracts past a lawyer or experienced advisor.
Consider location as well. If you have to be based in London, your cost of living will be much higher than Newcastle, for example, but it may be more beneficial for your business. So weigh it up.
When it comes to cost, it’s all about value so check the success of the incubators alumni against the programmes focus.
4. Who will be around you?
An important aspect to any business is your network. A strong network can open doors. Having a high quality of startups around you can also help you up your game.
Some incubators are industry focused; retail or finance. Check if an industry focused startup incubator would be of more benefit to you.
Often investors & mentors will have more experience in the focus industry. This can be beneficial if you are looking to raise funding or have a strong dependence on leveraging partnerships.