If you have a new business idea but haven’t quite gotten it off the ground, you may benefit from resources provided by a “business incubator.” If you’ve not heard of this term before, it is an organization that provides space, resources, mentoring, funding and networking opportunities to help a new business get on its feet.
It is not an entirely new concept. Business incubators have been around for some time but began to grow in popularity in the 80s when higher learning institutions began offering business incubators as a way to provide job prospects to new graduates. Since the early days, the concept has grown to include a diverse group of businesses on a global level.
Many of the top business incubators are industry specific: two examples of these industry-specific business incubators include Houston Technology Center (supporting energy start-ups) and Massachusetts Biomedical Initiatives (centered around technology companies).
A lot goes into running a new business—budgeting, marketing research, business planning and more. Even startups with the greatest potential may have trouble getting off the ground without proper funding, leadership experience and other essential resources. A business incubator can offer these resources to help new start-ups succeed.
A business incubator is not the same thing as a business accelerator. A business accelerator can also offer assistance to fledgling companies looking for funds and resources to grow, but there are more stipulations. If you don’t meant the goals set forth by the accelerator program, the funding can be withdrawn. Many accelerators will also ask for company equity/stock in return for their services. Most business incubators are non-profits and do not charge for any services provided.
If you are interested in obtaining the resources provided by a business incubator, here is a directory of business incubators by state. You can find more information about business incubators at the InBIA website. InBIA is a non-profit organization providing education and best practices in business incubation.