One of the really fun things about being involved in the early-stage scene here in Atlanta is that I get to network and meet with a lot of people who share the common vision of fostering a better startup ecosystem for our community. Included in this are representatives from various chambers of commerce, academic institutions, and governmental agencies. It seems that a common thread among many of these groups is that they all get excited about the prospects of launching an “incubator” in their respective geographies.
Unfortunately, many of these well-intentioned endeavors never get off the ground, or they take forever to gain traction. Why? Bureaucracy. While they all see the benefit from an economic stimulation perspective, they lose sight of what is really important – traction. Let’s face it – they are going to try and encourage tenant entrepreneurs to gain “traction” – ostensibly so they can graduate from the incubator, and become a viable force in the local economy.
It’s time they drink their own medicine. Stop wasting time with steering committees, breakout groups, and herding cats – start executing.
I recently met with one of the local Chambers of Commerce – one in a very affluent part of the city. They are very excited about launching an early-stage incubator, but for a year now, they’ve been “talking” about it.
Here is my easy four step plan for anyone who wants to launch something like this:
1. Forget about “incubators” – think “accelerator”
Incubators imply infrastructure. Not needed. Acceleration implies movement – traction. Much more salient. Forget about creating a building and charging rent from an early-stage company. You will automatically rule out 90% of the ideas that will eventually become viable players in the economy. By its very nature – if a company can already afford to pay your rent, they shouldn’t even need you. They already have traction.
2. Find a kid with a good idea
Imagine that. Jimmy is building a new software company from the ground up. Latch onto him. I was a judge last week for the Georgia Tech Business Plan Competition. Lots of fun. One company in particular actually said in their business plan that they were considering a move to Silicon Valley. Not if I can help it. Grab them before they get desperate.
3. If need be, Give him a place to hang his hat
Got a spare cube laying around? Stick Jimmy in it. Let him use your small conference room. Give him Wi-fi access. Whatever. Just do it. Just don’t charge him. Do it because you give a flip.
4. Help him.
Leverage your network and other resources to help Jimmy on a practical level. If he has a marketing question, set up a coffee with Bill, your longtime college buddy who now runs marketing for a hot tech company. Help Jimmy build his own network. Mentor him. That’s what it is all about. The next thing you know, Jimmy is an ambassador for the cause, and contributing to others.
Yes, Virginia – it’s just that simple.
Forget the bureaucracy. Find a kid with a good idea, stick him in your office, and help him. Acceleration. Good things happen.
On that note, stay tuned for an announcement about the cloud, our (StartupLounge.com’s) new model for early-stage acceleration here in Atlanta.