Business Incubators Don’t Need To Fail

Mar 3, 2010

Sramana Mitra has another interesting discussion on entrepreneurship going on in her often excellent blog – but it starts from an unsupportable precept. Sramana asks: “Why do business incubators fail”I co-founded and ran a successful incubation company for many years. We started in west Belfast (Northern Ireland), and by all external measurements we were set up to fail – extremely high local unemployment, an unskilled workforce and next to no sources of capital, all in the context of what was in effect a war zone.

Five years later the program was an outstanding success, had won the European Union Job Challenge Award and we were replicating it throughout the UK and beyond.

I believe there were three main success factors:

1. The program was conceived and delivered by hardened entrepreneurs who were compensated for success;

2. The local government agencies pump-primed initial start-up costs then got out of the way, and

3. We made the first few cohorts exceptionally competitive to get into, carefully selected only high potential participants, and delivered early, headline-grabbing successes – this drove the program virally and produced a great pipeline of motivated applicants for future cohorts, as well as enthusiastic partners and sponsors who wanted to become associated with the program for their own PR purposes.

Short version: business incubators don’t have to fail.