At INcubes, we always preach to our companies to be agile, quick to change, and learn on the go. Trying to lead by example, we are constantly looking to learn from everything we do and to implement lessons in our programs.
Since we started in 2011, we reviewed over 1,600 applications and accelerated 17 companies; along the way, we collected valuable feedback and applied it to our Funnel and Acceleration Programs.
Here are the insights we gained.
• Curriculum should be customized for each company. Companies in different stages have different needs. Going through a cohort program with a rigid curriculum in which different companies are expected to show the same deliverables, attend the same meetings, and meet with the same mentors does not optimize the acceleration opportunity.
Starting this year, we implemented a modular curriculum allowing us to focus our efforts on what our companies need most.
• A rolling model allows accelerators to choose the best companies. Our old intake model accepted companies twice a year into two cohorts, which meant we were constantly turning away excellent entrepreneurs because “timing wasn’t right.”
Our new rolling model allows us the flexibility to accept applications year round.
• Having strong business foundations and documentation is essential when talking to investors. Investors will not make your life easy. They want to see hard numbers and projections based on logical assumptions; they want to feel that you understand your business environment. They can ask to see your accounting documents, articles of incorporation, shareholders agreements, pitch decks, LOI’s, and more. Having all these in place before meeting investors can determine their first impression of you, not to mention make or break a deal.
At INcubes we have a list of customized deliverables for each company. Our team of mentors and expert executives goes over them to make sure they are clear and coherent before we present the company to our investor network.
• Spoon feeding, in the long run, does not create strong companies. Companies can often experience an “after acceleration low” and find it hard to keep the momentum when the program ends. One of the reasons is that many accelerator programs focus heavily on specific deliverables (e.g pitch decks) without teaching companies the necessary skills to take initiative and drive themselves forward.
Our Funnel and Acceleration programs follow deliverables that are tailored to each company, and give the entrepreneurs the resources and freedom to determine how to achieve those deliverables without spoon feeding them the content.
• There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to mentors. We believe that an accelerator is only as good as the network it has. A large network of mentors with varied skills ensures that each company can meet mentors according to its needs and current stage. Mentor accessibility is key—as well as the presence of in-house, high-profile executives, who can provide on-spot inputs, help with brainstorming, and evaluate companies’ deliverables on demand.
All these insights inspired the launch of our new programs at the beginning of 2014, and we are excited to be accepting applications year round to join INcubes on this next phase of growth.