incubators #equity #startups #entrepreneurs

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🐣 Joining an incubator seems like the only way forward for a scientist who wants to become entrepreneur. But sometimes they come at an unbearable cost for the company and the people.

Not two incubators are the same, their programs change widely, their networks are of different sizes, and their expertise can be extremely different from one another.

As scientists, we are trained to seek help in areas in which we lack expertise. Incubators are often presented to us as an institution that can help us bridge that gap. They can be the long sought enablers that help us move forward.

But building on your ideas is so different than following a series of workshops.

Building requires continuous practice: action, learning, and feedback. The trainers, coaches, and mentors must show a great deal of empathy and previous experience. It is so different getting advice from someone who has seen things from the sidelines, from a non-risk-taking type of position, than getting it from someone who "has been there, done that".

The first thing you need to judge before joining an incubator is what are the costs. Some are free to join (if you are accepted), and there's little to lose except time. Some are very upfront and ask for cash: it's just a transaction like any other would be. The value/cost math is up to you to perform.

Some, however, ask for shares in your company. How do you value that? For me, it was extremely hard to justify that a 6-month program would keep a piece of what I was building in the years that follow.

The important question, in those cases, is whether the company would be possible without the incubator.

University-affiliated incubators are a hard topic. They may or may not have your best interests in mind. At some point you'll have to negotiate licensing terms. Who's interests do you think the incubator has at heart? But they are the first ones we encounter as #scipreneurs .

Some incubators excel at match making. Co-founders meet in their events, or the entire program is built around matchmaking. Perhaps without that catalyst, nothing would move forward, and hence the intrinsic value of the offer.

💰 Rarely (but not impossibly), getting into an incubator comes with an initial investment. An investment that buys you the time you need to reach the next milestone. It could be that without the initial trust and support, it would have become impossible for founders to move forward.

How to value the contributions of an incubator is a completely different story. They only way to know is by asking former incubees.


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Aquiles Carattino
Aquiles Carattino
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