Monday, October 29, 2012

"The Tall, Skinny Floor Pedal?"

"The Tall, Skinny Floor Pedal?"

p.s. World Entrepreneurship Forum
Was.. well, imagine a gloriously eccentric global mix of entrepreneurs, social entrepreneurs, eggheads and policy types exploring best practices at growing entrep ecosystems and.. improving the state of the art. Whoa.
Add that to the other legs of the trip, especially the visit to "Stanford East", Aalto in Helsinki... Wow!

Meanwhile, I've been asked to put together an "A Team" to disseminate best practices on new venture accelerators. These recent experiences have inspired today's chat! If you have ANY interest in creating (or joining) an incubator/accelerator, you really need to know the realities.
(Short answer: You are likely to be disappointed...)

"Accelerator" is the New Buzzword
It's not enough to be an incubator of new/small businesses, you must try to be an accelerator!

Only problem? It isn't really working.

#1.  Accelerating IS better than incubating for many firms
#2. But it isn't necessary
#3. VERY hard to do it right (even incubating is tougher than it looks)
"Good" is NOT good enough- you have be great. And if even Silicon Valley has a tough time... ;)
#4. Co-Working Spaces are the real missing link for communities
Make a sexy place for people to work, to meet up, to start percolating... now you have something!

Basically, the ONLY two accelerators who make positive returns are Y-Combinator and TechStars. That's about it. There are so many "accelerators" (even old-school incubators) that are underachieving mightily.

Mostly because they don't have the human capital (let alone social capital) to really make a difference for the new ventures. (See below)

Spectrum of non-virtual support for new ventures looks like this:
Cheap office space <----------->Balls-to-the-wall Accelerators
[most incubators]                     [YCombinator, TechStars]

Some are temporary plus follow-on (like TechStars and its cousins)
Some are actually virtual - there's an explosion of online platforms for mentoring [e.g., the new].

Key ingredients are NOT the space itself but...
* Mentoring.. mentoring on steroids [few places can do this]
* Skilled management of the process [equally few have this.. NO place for novices, I fear..]
* Great selection of the *teams* (focus on team, not initial biz idea)
* COMPLETE "buy-in" from the "inmates"
* Must be run by people who have never played politics with entrep turf issues (i.e. in Jim Collins's terms, get the wrong people off the bus, especially those who want to drive, LOL)
* MUST be deeply connected across the local, state (and national) entrepreneurship ecosystem.

Alternate models are out there -
What we're now calling the "venture creation practice" model (Gothenburg, Aalto, Stanford, Babson, Twente and a handful of others) is something we need to talk about for Idaho & beyond.
...but that's a story for another day [besides, people will call me "hater" again, LOL]


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