You have a passion, a dream, and you want to turn it into a business. What you might not know, however, is that an incubation program can be vital to your success. Incubation programs provide you with management and mentoring, access to market resources, networking opportunities and business skills training.
Yet, although business incubators are designed to work with startups and early-stage companies, more often than not, entrepreneurs utilize these programs too late in their business development at which point they realize that they now have less flexibility to change their business if needed.
So why don’t more entrepreneurs join an online incubator earlier in their process? It’s probably due to fear. Fear that their idea is still “too green” to tell anyone about. Well, as they say, the early bird gets the worm – an adage that is especially true for entrepreneurs!
Here are 4 reasons why incubation is a good idea for early-stage entrepreneurs.
1. Progress from “divergence” to “convergence”
Ideation and prototyping will ideally come before incubation. These are “divergent stages” a chance to test your ideas before converging them into an MVP. Whilst incubation still offers a lot of flexibility for testing your service or product, it also provides a key structure to start converging your ideas into a concrete plan – to push to the next step in the development of your business.
Bringing your ideas together at the incubation stage will help you to test the viability of your business. You’ll be developing and testing your MVP (or prototype if you’re not there yet), carrying out plenty of customer discovery to find a product-market fit and if you haven’t already, looking into hiring your first team members.
2. See incubation programs as a learning experience?— because they are
Although business incubation is not an easy feat, it’s important to see the process as a learning experience. The “trial and error” component of an incubation program may lead you to discover that your business is not viable, which in turn might lead you to find another means to reach your goal. Or, you may even have to stop and start from scratch with something new. Either way, you will have learned from your mistakes rather than learning the hard way via a failed business launch.
Although it’s important to come into an incubation program with a strong, clear idea of what you want your organization to become, joining in the early stages of development is vital to maintaining flexibility in your development process and what the final product may look like. This is especially important if it is your first venture, or if you have a limited background in business.
3. Define and design your business logically
A good incubation program should support you in defining and outlining the key steps to developing your business. It’s not uncommon for entrepreneurs to stick to their area of expertise and neglect or skim over the areas they’re less comfortable with due to fear of failure.
Ideally, you’ll leave an incubation program with a clear structure, understanding and vision for your business – ready to respond to those in depth questions potential investors want to know the answer to. It’s also easy to feel overwhelmed as an early-stage entrepreneur. Incubation programs should help with this by providing the right tools to work on all the fundamentals of your business, supporting you in gaining back a feeling of control.
4. What about mentoring?
If you are considering incubation, try looking for a program that includes mentoring. Why? Because early intervention by industry professionals is vital to the initial development of an organization. By working with a mentor, you are privy to an external point of view and are thus able to avoid unforeseen challenges. Of course, mentoring also opens up the opportunity for possible networking opportunities, something that will be key in the early (and later) stages of your business.
If you didn’t know, we’re on a mission to democratize access to entrepreneurship education. We support early-stage entrepreneurs in developing the businesses our society needs through innovation and entrepreneurship programs running across over 70 countries.
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