Nov 18, 2014 slush
“Business incubators and accelerators are critical intermediaries in the innovation & entrepreneurship ecosystem. Good incubators and accelerators – or “innovation hubs” as we called them at our event last night – are as good as the companies they represent.
Slush 2014 is bringing together the best Eurasian startups and tech talent to meet with top-tier international investors, executives and media. So what does that have to do with innovation hubs? Some of these have their client companies represented at Slush (others will want to make sure they do so for Slush 2015!) but each and every one will want to go home with new ideas and contacts for improving their service offering for startups.
What makes a (good) incubator critical for a startup? Certainly not keeping things too warm and cozy as Will Cardwell, Partner at Courage Ventures and Senior Advisor at Aalto Ventures Program, told us: an incubator, to innovate, must push companies out of their comfort zone. As Omoniyi Olawale from Nigeria, Founder & CEO of Irofit, who took part in the Startup Sauna acceleration program: a lucky few are chosen, but what happened on the first day?
Those 20 or so companies pitched again and they were all told that they sucked. By getting companies to feel “uncomfortable” – pushing the boundaries and thinking outside the box, these companies can have true, disruptive impact. Echoing the Ambassador of the United States to Finland, Bruce J. Oreck: “innovation is about who you are, more than what you do – be your exceptional self”. Incubators can compound that effort and attitude among the companies that it works with.
Incubators are links and advocates for startups, they should be able to ascertain the collective value of investing in startups, facilitating industry or product development contacts for startups, advising on funding opportunities for startups and providing general guidance on company administration, in addition to general startup community development.
It’s hard for many startups to know how to validate a product or service in the market, and it’s often complex to scale smart and to go international (if you get to that). There may or not be regular, physical space (e.g. office space) provided, it’s kind of boring to talk about anyway and the old-school version of incubation. It’s about the services that incubators provide that truly add value to a startups various development phases, creating a shared momentum among the group of startups it works with.
More than 120 business incubators and accelerators from over 20 countries are coming to Slush – a bulk of these from emerging markets across Africa, Asia, Europe and the US. We wanted to put them in one room together quite simply to meet each other, share some stories and a few insights, and get them ready for the full Slush experience – and they were there in full force yesterday, all “hatching” some truly exciting solutions to local problems. The role of incubators can be particularly valuable in more challenging business environments where startups do not have access to the same range of financial or other support services and infrastructure to support their company growth, as they might have in the developed world. Nor do they necessarily have an advocate towards the public sector to help create more effective startup ecosystem drivers.
With the Global Hub Reception at #slush14, here is to celebrating those champion incubators that get companies out of their comfort zone – to grow, to create impact, and to have a wonderfully uncomfortable time doing it!
Thanks to our partner Courage Ventures for helping put the event together.
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