Should You Join an Incubator?

The problem with startups is that they have such a short trajectory. As soon as they launch, it’s a race to either getting funding, getting acquired or failing miserably. Startup founders need every resource they can get their hands on to make sure they succeed. Incubators have started popping up all over the country, since Y Combinator launched in 2005. And while startup incubators can provide a much-needed injection of cash, as well as mentorship and contacts, is it really what your business needs?

Drawbacks to Incubators

1. If you work full-time, you’ll find it hard to keep up with the work. The Founder Institute requires at least 15 hours of work on the incubator each week. That’s a 3.5 hour weekly session, as well as oodles of homework. If you’re working a job (either your startup or another 9-to-5), you’ll find it difficult to balance both (we won’t even throw in family time to that equation).

2. Incubators take some of your revenue. This is pretty standard, but if you’re not prepared to share on average 6% with your incubator, it might not be for you.

3. You’ll meet a lot of talkers and few doers. Everyone will be excited about your brand. Everyone. But the number of callbacks you get from those excited people? Significantly fewer. VCs who mentor or speak at incubators see companies like yours all the time, and just because you were smart enough to get into the incubator doesn’t mean they’ll want to fund you.

4. You’ll tweak your deck until your head explodes. And you’ll get different opinions about what it needs to look like. My husband, who graduated from The Founder Institute last year (did I mention I’m a “Founder Institute Widow?” That’s what we call spouses of founders who are mentally AWOL for the duration of the incubator) and tweaked his deck continually. He got frustrated how one mentor would tell him to go in one direction, then the next one would send him back where he started.

If this hasn’t scared you off from participating in an incubator, here’s a general idea of what you should expect:

  • You may be required to move where the incubator is for the duration of the program (typically 6 weeks to 6 months).
  • You’ll work with other startup founders to learn the basics of launching a business and taking it to your exit strategy.
  • You may receive a small amount of cash to help grow your business.
  • You’ll have access to VCs and entrepreneurs in your field.

Here are some incubators to consider.