Motivate October 2017

Startup Entrepreneurs, You Are Not Alone.

Written By: Philip N. Kabler

Beginning a new business “from scratch” conjures up exciting, even romantic, visions of innovation, creation and success. In that light, here’s Act 1, Scene 1: A solitary genius toiling away alone, inexhaustibly, day and night in a garret apartment, dank library stack, or silent laboratory to bring about “The Next Big Thing,” the genius perseveres and then ultimately has the “Eureka!” moment of creation. And then, the genius monetizes it. With angel capital funding. Then, VC funding. And then, an IPO. Well…the last four sentences are not that romantic at all, but they are often the desired result of outcome-oriented entrepreneurs.

This piece could stop right there, at the preceding paragraph, with all that inspiring imagery. But, no. First, because it is only about 110 words and not exactly the stuff of an actionable article. And second, because it rarely happens.

Let us start our literary journey into business development with “No entrepreneur is an island” (with paraphrase credit to John Donne). This poetic line sounds so attractive that it just has to be true. But, what growth-oriented company really operates with only one person? It does not matter the domain of a business — whether involved in the production of goods, the delivery of services, or some hybrid of both — or the industry of a business, whether in the retail, restaurant, manufacturing, real estate development, information technology, biotechnology or any other business “ecospace” imaginable. In each of those fields, there are design, materials processing, production, finishing, logistics, delivery, maintenance, bookkeeping, legal/compliance and marketing professionals, to name just a few.

That brings us to incubators. One does not need to imagine a lab of productive minds developing their individual business concepts, preparing them for proof of concept, market-testing them and actually selling them for money. No, one does not need to imagine such a thing because they already exist. That is precisely what occurs in an incubator.

Incubators are, in effect, living roundtables where entrepreneurs from different fields voluntarily co-locate to prepare their businesses for the marketplace in direct proximity to other entrepreneurs. Participants attend training sessions, “bounce ideas” off one another, observe what works and does not work for others and benefit from mentorship with seasoned professionals who have succeeded in the past — or, even better, have failed and learned from that failure in a useful way.1

Incubators, then, are a very safe and risk-managed venue to road test business ventures with others who are doing the exact same thing. What can really go too wrong in that environment? Incubator participants share physical space and expense, marinate operational processes together, serve as gentle reader critics, provide boundaries and even act as brakes before a business-in-progress goes off the rails.2 The participants identify budding strengths and weaknesses together, celebrate their successes together and, quite hopefully, learn from their failures together. This, in turn, engenders a Three Musketeers “all for one and one for all” mindset.

It seems that the goal of incubators, then, is not to haphazardly hurl-out prepackaged “genius” stories into the marketplace. The goal, rather, is to patiently build and eventually graduate properly formed and stable operational ventures that are positioned to grow to scale rationally and thoughtfully over time. At which point, the graduate entrepreneurs return to the roost of their incubators to serve as resources for the next generation.

Here, here, then, to incubators! They are not just springboards for startups. They are also epic and even heroic tales of business ingenuity.


NOTICE: The article above is not intended to serve as legal advice, and readers should not rely on it as such. It is offered only as general information. Readers should consult with an attorney regarding their legal matters, as every situation is unique.




PHILIP N. KABLER is an Incubator Resource for the Santa Fe College Center for Innovation and Economic Development (CIED), and has taught various courses at the UF Levin College of Law and at the UF Warrington College of Business (undergraduate and graduate). He is also the current president of the North Florida Association of Real Estate Attorneys, and a member of The Florida Bar’s Professional Ethics Committee.


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