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When accepted to an incubator, who should you have on your team?

I have applied to a well established incubator here in California (I will not name drop) and I am optimistic I will be accepted. Currently the team consists of myself, a graduate student in public health with previous business experience selling imported exotic fabric, a systems analyst with a lot of managerial experience and an electrical engineer. We are all under 27 years old.

Regardless of whether we are accepted or not, I wanted to find out what type of skill should be on this team. We are a social network that connects people going to sports events.

A side question is what have your experiences been with incubators/accelerators?

4 Replies

David Still
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David Still Advisor
Founder of Start-ups, Entrepreneur, Financier and Advisor

Re: "A side question is what have your experiences been with incubators/accelerators?"


Temper your expectations that incubators will enhance your success odds. Allegedly, the facts are that "50 percent of business incubator companies survive 3-5 years"1 (same numbers as all start-ups) and "90 percent of incubators and accelerators will fail."2


1 Stewart Smith, "Bottom-Up vs. Top-Down Policies towards the Commercialization of University Intellectual Property, Working Paper Series in Economics and Finance No 463." National Business Incubation Association, February 25, 2012 at blog.theentrepreneursadvisor.com/2011/07/business-incubators-business-accelerators/accessed March 3, 2015


2 Peter Relan, "90 Percent of Incubators And Accelerators Will Fail And That's Just Fine For America And The World," (Blog) October 14, 2012 at http://techcrunch.com/2012/10/14/90-of-incubators-and-accelerators-will-fail-and-why-thats-just-fine-for-america-and-the-world/ accessed May 5, 2015

Peter Johnston
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Peter Johnston Advisor
Businesses are composed of pixels, bytes & atoms. All 3 change constantly. I make that change +ve.
The job of an incubator is to take the rough diamond and polish it, plugging you and your idea into their teams, mentors and systems, to build out your expertise and create a package they can then sell on - at a large multiple - to a more risk averse investor for the growth stage.

But an idea, without a team is just a dream. They want to see that it has been well thought through from several angles and that you have good people to fill your skills gaps (and everyone has skills gaps). For example to build a social network you need someone with computer and mobile development expertise. You need someone with User Experience Design capability. And you need someone who knows how to growth hack and scale the product from a marketing perspective. Someone who can help you look at the profitability angles and methods is important too. Now it may be that none of those people are co-founders, but you have the expertise on tap in your network - or it may be that you haven't even realised you need these to be successful.

Stepping back, there are three core skillsets - technical, business and marketing. Imagine them as axesand set a level of capability on each to give you a circle of capability. The wider and more even that circle, the better your chances of success. So work out how to move each axis out to the max.

As to accelerators, they can be powerful networks of really capable people who can help with every aspect of your startup - or they can be people who buy in an idea cheap, polish it up and sell it to the highest bidder.

Often you are part of their business model, not them part of yours and you will feel run on a treadmill to suit their objectives. But equally often, the founder has to grow up and realise that they need others, have skill gaps and that 1% of something worth having is better than 100% of nothing.
Douglas Kuhn
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Douglas Kuhn Entrepreneur
CTO, Strategic Development Engineer at Greenwitch Productions LLC
I can only speak from a development perspective but this is a template I would use:

Leadership

  • Team Captain (Keeps Team on Point)

  • Team Lieutenant (Is an understudy for the team)

Engineering

  • Front-End (engineers user experience)

  • Back-End (engineers business logic)

  • Full-Stack (engineers architecture)

  • UI/UX (creates assets for front end)

  • Database (handles the Database)

  • Admin (handles the server)

Karl Schulmeisters
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Karl Schulmeisters Entrepreneur
CTO ClearRoadmap

I'd say that's overstaffed.

You need to figure out what you need to get from where you are to MVP So you need

  • Product Vision
  • Market/Customer Research
  • Team Coordination and leadership
  • Product Development
  • Marketing/Growth Hacking
  • Sales

Typically in different phases of the process each cofounder wears different hats. What you cannot do yourself you contract or try and find someone who will work for mostly equity.

So from the list you give you have

  • Product Vision (you)
  • Project coordination (you and your managerial cofounder)
  • Product Development (engineer)
  • Sales (graduate student)

So you guys need to sit down and sort through a startup business plan and just figure out who can do what

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