Accelerator & Incubator Design
Designing an accelerator or incubator is all about the "why" (Simon Sinek). Understanding why stakeholders want to engage with startups in such a program is the key to success. This can take very different dimensions. For example an academic incubator might be interested in turning IP into business through fostering spin-offs, whereas a corporate might want to be on top of innovation in the respective industry. Other corporates might also engage for financial reasons whereas political funding agencies could be interested in developing the local or regional economy.
Understanding the underlying interests of all stakeholders is crucial for the success of any startup support program. Aligning those interests is even more important. Alignment, in this respect, must also include awareness among all stakeholders about possible outcomes, impossible outcomes and the commitment it needs to achieve positive results. Fostering this process before start is the key to success and results in two major inputs for the design of the accelerator or incubator: mutual understanding & common goals.
Designing the concept of an accelerator or incubator after the initial step is straight forward, but still takes significant efforts. Different modules from existing playbooks can be combined with customized processes to result in a tailored setup including financials.
Campaigning & "Deal Flow"
After the green light, the most important phase of a new accelerator is gaining deal flow. This terminology is taken from the process venture capital investors use to refer to incoming pitch decks and business plans, but in the case of accelerators and incubators means generating applications. Some sort of campaigning will be needed to gain this deal flow, mainly depending on the regional focus, and the target audience. The most efficient measure would be a multi channel campaign, however such campaigns need a wide variety of skills, from network marketing & common advertising to performance marketing and social media skills. Based on the skills within my network I can help with each facet of campaigning, depending on what makes sense.
Selection of Startups from the Deal Flow
The key to selecting the right startups for your program is a balance between the amount of applications you need to process and how deeply you need to assess them. Especially if your program deals with small batches, redundancy in your selection process is crucial. This means you need to involve several experts with the right skill set and domain expertise. Involving stakeholders is great for commitment, but needs very intense guidance on how to judge startups correctly.
I have set up several selection funnels. Additionally, I have processed thousands of applications through these funnels as well. In case of 360 Lab for example, the team and me prepared and assessed startups in a boot camp, to climax in a live broad casted show called Xcite. (Similar to "Shark Tank" & "Höhle der Löwen".)
Onboarding the Startups
After selecting startups some formalities are due. The startups need to be informed in detail, preparations for the program need to be started and legal topics need to be covered. Preparing legal documents in advance is the minimum, having them published during campaigning is highly recommended. This will give all parties involved an early common understanding of what is expected, and leaves little room for discussion and negotiations. In my opinion, no matter when your program starts, supporting your startups starts here.
The Accelerator or Incubator Program
The design and setup of the program itself is done before campaigning starts. Now you need to execute your planing. The core of activities in this phase comes down to a combination of project-, event- & network management. Due to the variety of skills needed, you will need a team to cover these activities properly. Whereas providing access to workshops, mentorship and the startup community is crucial for startup's success, involving stakeholders in the process is key to the success of the accelerator or incubator.
In the sense of full service I do not only support the design of your program. If needed, I can take over some of it's crucial content. (Please take a look at the workshops.)
The "After Accelerator Life"
Successful accelerators and incubators are sustainable. Over time they evolve to an ecosystem with circular activities. Startup success leads to engagement by founders as mentors, stakeholder satisfaction leads to enhanced commitment and resources. Therefore include circular approaches in your design from day one. In the end, this will determine your sustainability.