Suffering from Incubatoritis? Our Diagnosis and Cure

October 05, 2015

Opened in 1959, The Batavia Industrial Center, in Batavia, New York, is generally accepted as the first business incubator in the United States. Over the last 15 years, there has been a tremendous explosion in the number of incubators each with a unique focus. Some may choose to focus on Tech and Biotech while others specialize in Social Enterprise or Green Enterprise. The ‘incubator’ is developing into an institution that in many essential ways is attempting to teach people how to function outside traditional organizations and the growth in this sector has come from our understanding that the traditional techniques (more often than not) lead to traditional results, and if we are looking for ground-breaking results we need start somewhere different.

The challenge for the ‘incubator industry’ is in avoiding the fate of becoming a traditional institution.

Humans are afraid of the unknown. 

We prefer the structured order of a classroom atmosphere with a professor, where we turn in our homework as directed, and then wait to see if we did “good” or “bad” based on a predetermined hierarchy of grades. The problem with this model (the one we have spent our whole lives within) is that it does not accurately represent, in the slightest, the day to day reality entrepreneurship.  We like the feelings of relief and security that come from thinking “I’ve made it! I am now at the prominent incubator I applied to”, but just as a degree from Harvard will not in and of itself deliver success or a prosperous future, neither will an incubator.

This way of thinking will not be an easy attitude to fight.

Entrepreneurs who naturally start things on their own won’t necessarily even think to apply to an incubator or entrepreneurship program since they are too busy building the product, testing an offering, and starting their business. The risk for incubators, is in becoming the trendy, cooler, and cheaper version of an MBA program (with a major in entrepreneurship) where just being ‘accepted’ into the program is confused with success itself.

This is the condition known as “Incubatoritis”. 

For those of you rejected from incubators, take this as encouragement, you most likely never needed them in the first place.

Nothing – no degree, no institute, and no incubator – can deliver success for you. You and your efforts are the qualities that really matter. The antidote to Incubatoritis is to be clear in your definition of success, which for those looking to build a business, begins with having an idea and a potential customer. Think of the valuable time we might be wasting trying to find and achieve traditional recognition (like spending 2 years in an MBA program, or even a single year at a prominent accelerator program) when we could have been putting in the work of getting customers.

Nothing, and certainly no program, should stand between you and your business.

Press forward.

This article was originally published on Bunker Labs.

The challenge for the ‘incubator industry’ is in avoiding the fate of becoming a traditional institution.

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