By Alison Ross, RIC Centre Communication Intern
What is an Incubator?
Incubators are collaborative programs that help new start-ups succeed. They have been scattered across Silicon Valley for more than two decades. There are now hundreds of incubators around the world, and many success stories have come out of these them, for instance, Airbnb and Box. But Incubators aren’t just about making million-dollar companies, they’re about nurturing start-ups that want to do good in the world.
For example, at RIC Centre’s Incubator, startups have access to office space and wet labs. Most importantly, they are also paired with seasoned entrepreneurs who use the Framework for Success. to coach them. Our Incubator companies learn how to develop their product, take their product to market, reach new clients, find funding, and everything in between.
But why should a startup consider joining an incubator program?
It’s an Inspiring Environment
Inspiration can come from anywhere. It may come from ping pong and free beer, but more likely, it will come from the people you work with. If you want to build a successful business, it’s best to work with a diverse network of your peers, and incubators are a great place to build your network. You may meet (friendly) rivals, partners, advisors, investors, and maybe even co-founders.
Take Impact Hub Ottawa, for example. Their office features almost every start-up incubator cliché imaginable. Graffiti on the walls, sculptures on the floor, 20-something hipsters and business casual boomers. But the vibrant atmosphere is not what’s inspiring about Impact Hub Ottawa. The incubator is inspiring because it facilitates conversation and connections. At Impact Hub, when an entrepreneur takes their start-up to the next level, fellow entrepreneurs use their skills and networks to further help their colleague. A successful incubator doesn’t just hang posters on the wall that say “Hubbers Do Epic Shit,” it makes sure that those posters are true.
You Have Access to Advice from Seasoned Entrepreneurs and Professionals
At the RIC Centre, we have three entrepreneurs-in-residence (EIR): Paul Barter, Geoff Simonett and James Sbrolla. Barter is a strategy, research and innovation executive with over 30 years experience in tech. Simonett is the founder of Green Sky Capital Inc. and he’s served as a board member for Method Integration and BlueMetric Environmental Inc. Sbrolla is a veteran of the clean technologies industry. He’s also a widely published journalist in the business media. This is why, every successful incubator hires experienced people to guide start-ups toward success. Their experience and network are crucial to helping young companies thrive.
With the help of our EIRs and volunteer advisors, startups are given the opportunity to present at our Champion Series panels. The experts may be critical, but it’s because they care. They can give you a reality check. They might even help you realize where your passion and dedication lies. If you don’t have a fully fleshed-out business plan yet, most incubators also host events where experts speak about important topics like digital marketing, social selling and pitching to investors. Education and growth is just part of the journey.
Your Start-Up Will Be Taken More Seriously
Incubators are lead by experts in a variety of industries. If investors can see that these experts support you, they’re more likely to think you’ve got something worth buying into. Joining an incubator is like going to University or College – you don’t need it to be successful, but you can learn a lot while you’re there. Many incubators even use the word “graduate” when companies are ready for independence. An incubator can provide a metaphorical degree to hang on the wall. Your incubator will always be your alma mater.
Incubators Provide Media Coverage
At the RIC Centre, our fantastic team of writers often interview clients. We feature those entrepreneurs’ stories on our website. Then, we share them on LinkedIn, Twitter and Facebook and through email channels. Incubators provide media coverage for their start-ups. They have sizeable social media followings (the RIC Centre has almost 5000 Twitter followers) so it’s a great way to get your name out there. Most of the media coverage you can get from an incubator will be on social media, which, as you might have guessed, is the platform to advertise on. There are two great perks to social media advertising.
Perk #1: It’s a great place to target a niche audience.
Companies almost always start out niche. Social Media is ideal for targeting a niche. Unlike television, which tries to cater to the masses, social media is all about people forming tiny communities (take this subreddit for example). Okay, maybe that’s a little too niche for your business, but the point is, Incubators can use their social media presence to target the niche you’re interested in. And, they can help you target investors.
Perk #2: Social Media is all about the truth.
In this digital age, people know that traditional ads are meant to persuade them. They’re more interested in truth than persuasion. When we tell entrepreneur stories at the RIC Centre, we avoid marketese. We focus on real stories of entrepreneurs who take risks because they want to change the world. That’s what investors and customers alike respond to.
Incubators Take Care of the Nitty Gritty
Media coverage isn’t the only task that incubators take care of. They also provide legal and financial advice. Entrepreneurs are known for taking risks, but when it comes to the details, our program partners at Pallett Valo, Bereskin & Parr and BDO know how to take care of you.
In “Articles of Incorporation”, the third episode of HBO’s Silicon Valley, the lead character, Richard, discovers that the name of his start-up, Pied Piper, is already in use by an irrigation company. Richard confronts the irrigation guy on his own, and the guy lets him keep “Pied Piper” for free. But Silicon Valley is an HBO sitcom. In real life, entrepreneurs usually need at least one legal advisor guide them through issues like this.
The Point is:
Advanced Opto-Mechanical Systems and Technologies Inc. (AOMS Technologies) has had success in part to the RIC Centre. AOMS was a company with great technology and many opportunities to penetrate into the market. They came in contact with James Sbrolla and enrolled in the RIC Centre Incubator program in 2015. Since then, they have taken their product to market, raised close to $1 million in funding from GreenSky Capital and OCE and are now expanding across the globe.
If you’re an entrepreneur in need of some expert advice, check out our Incubator Program and get all the perks mentioned above and more!