by Ashley Huffman
So you’re a Torontonian with a startup that you want to take to the next level, which incubator do you choose?
This is no simple task. Choosing the right incubator for your startup company is imperative. It’s one of the most important decisions you can make for your business’ future. No pressure! There are many different types of incubators to consider; from industry strength, types of technologies incubated, what funding round they will see you through to, and the cost.
Toronto alone has its fair share of types of business incubators.
- Government Based – Business Development Canada
- Fashion Focused – Toronto Fashion Incubator
- Food Focused – The Toronto Food Business Incubator
- Public Incubators – Listing
- Private Incubators – Listing
- Not to mention the somewhat unchartered waters of virtual business incubators
- We even have our own startup week http://StartUpWeekend.org
So what makes a good incubator and startup partnership?
I asked founder of disruptive tech incubator INcubes, Ben Zlotnick, and he narrowed it down to these three simple points:
1) Approach an incubator knowing what you want from your business. Are you in it for the long term or do you want to exit early? Do you have a business or an idea? They are two very different things.
2) Go in knowing what you need from an incubator. Do you need help structuring the company, testing, staffing or mainly funding?
3) Have a good personal relationship. Would you rather spend all day and night in the same office with someone you mesh with or dislike?
So now you know what the options are, what makes a good relationship, let’s dive right into the ins and outs of a business incubator.
Business: INcubes – a Toronto based business incubator that sources emerging entrepreneurs and talented start up teams, and graduates qualified businesses.
Sector: The first private incubator in the city and one of the few remaining. It thrives on a very niche startup market; namely disruptive tech companies that public and government organizations wouldn’t touch with a 10 foot pole.
Best for: Startups looking to reach their first round of funding.
Program structure: Entrepreneurial bootcamp tailored to each business. A private school-style atmosphere with a hands-on approach to mentoring and business development. Learn more about their programs and environment on their website and blog.
Exit structure: 3 month accelerated program and companies can continue to use their network of mentors.
Cost: Share of equity stake.
Claim to fame: A series of heavy hitter mentors and an inflow of celebrity speakers.
Noteworthy mention: “With a lot of ideas leveraging already existing platforms like Facebook and Twitter, it’s not difficult or rare to get squashed or sued. We are in the business of taking risks, but very educated risks.” said A. Traviss Corry, Business Development Mentor at INcubes.
This is a simple glance into the world of choosing the right incubator for your business, using INcubes as a case study. From my own personal experiences in startups and incubators, no matter where you choose, whether local, Silicon Valley, big or small, the relationship should be more about you, the startup, than them the incubator. Nikola Tesla, Stephen Hawking and Steve Jobs aren’t legends for doing what they were told. They got great help and kept bending the lines of understanding and possibility.
If you’re not sure where to start, I recommend contacting the Canadian Youth Business Foundation. They provide free access to coaching, mentoring and business resources.
And of course, there’s much more to consider, including the roles within your organization to the art of bootstrapping. But I’ll leave that for next time.