Business & Finance Entrepreneurs

Make the Most Out of an Incubator Program

Incubators and accelerators are red-hot in the tech world right now for getting startups off to the right start. 

What is a startup incubator or accelerator?

Simply put, incubators and accelerators are places for developing founders to rapidly test their ideas, get expert guidance from more seasoned entrepreneurs, earn some seed funding and hopefully emerge with a fully viable company. 

Incubators like TechStars and Y Combinator stay in the tech press because they have such a great record of producing successful companies.

 

Why Your Incubator Experience is Critical

Dreamers dream, successful entrepreneurs do. Turning ideas into products, measuring how customers respond, and learning whether to stay the course or pivot are the bedrock of scaling a successful startup, so all processes must be aimed at accelerating that feedback loop explains startup guru Eric Reis in his book The Lean Startup. The idea of a "minimum viable product" is sacred to entrepreneurs who hunger to see if their ideas have real market potential. 

Firat Parlak, the Chief Entrepreneurial Officer and driving force behind the design and development firm Awesome, has made his career specialty working with startups that are attempting to enter highly competitive incubator programs. 

He reports: "One of the common issues with first-time entrepreneurs is not understanding the product development stage. They have brilliant ideas and they want to incorporate all of their product ideas with the first initial launch however, they don't know what it takes to execute them.

We help entrepreneurs filter their ideas into viable products and then bring those products to market quickly."

Incubators help entrepreneurs strengthen the presentation of your ideas to recruit technical talent such as developers, CTO's and partners. 

"I'll give you an example," Parlak continues. "We had a client project that got into the highly prestigious and extremely competitive tech accelerator TechStars. While the client had a long list of product functionalities they wanted to include, during the UX/wire-framing stage of planning out the project, we steered the client toward making a "minimum viable product" or MVP that was more closely aligned with providing a solution for users. So, with our collaboration and suggestions he was able to present an iPhone app that was easy to use and easy to understand and this helped him get into the program."

Pitfalls of Incubators

Incubators can offer a wealth of connections -- and money -- but they come with some drawbacks. Most incubators expect a share of your company if you are successful. This is hilariously dramatized in HBO's new comedy series Silicon Valley. A lot of the comedy in the series hinges on the relationship between scrappy startup-that-could founder Richard and Erlich Bachmann, the mercurial founder of the "incubator" that originally supported him. After promising Bachmann equity while drunk at a toga party, Richard learns first-hand how his business success is all about who he surrounds himself with. 

Tips on Making the Most of Your Incubator Experience

Parlak advises incubator attendees keep long-range goals in mind: "Launching a product is just the beginning of their journey. In order to avoid failure, a lot of decisions need to line up. I created Awesome with first-time entrepreneurs in mind specifically. I want to go that extra mile and help them present to investors or get into accelerator programs to ensure they become successful. As a startup founder, I've been through the startup cycle and we know what to expect, how to handle it, and I can help them through the process."

Read more of Parlak's tips here


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