When Sergey Brin speaks people tend to listen. It is not enough to just listen, you have to think about the underlying drivers of those words, and when you do you’ll hear the message loud and clear. His comments at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit effectively said that launching a start-up in Silicon Valley is a bad idea. So, if not there, then where? Odds are that you will be more successful starting something up where you are based rather than heading out to Silicon Valley–even if where you are is a big company. This could be a perfect incubator, if you just work at it.
Incubate an Incubator
When you think of what value an ‘incubator’ or a ‘start-up hub’ or an ‘accelerator’ offers perspective entrepreneurs you can boil it down to a few key services.
- Access to Capital
- Access to Talent
- Developmental Coaching
- Free coffee and donuts
- Connectivity to your first introductions to potential clients through the member’s networks
- A wicked atmosphere filled with other ambitious diverse entrepreneurs that help feed your aspirations for success and serve as sounding boards and competitors simultaneously.
With this exercise in oversimplification complete, let’s rewind the tape and look at this from an internal corporate point of view. Is it possible that a corporation can offer the same things? Wonder no more – the answer is a resounding, but qualified, yes. Small, medium, and especially large organizations are primed to internally incubate ideas, grow innovations, and harvest the fruit of their investments. The challenge is that they are likely not structured for efficient innovation and they lack the internal culture to nurture entrepreneurs. However, if they take the leap and make the investments they can compete with the most famous incubators and accelerators for talent and ideas. Don’t believe me? Consider these:
- Access to Capital – If you need cash you need not look further than large organizations. Cumulatively they are sitting on $1.68 Trillion dollars. Stockpiles of cash are like potential energy – they only generate value when put into motion in a thoughtful way. Like funding internal innovation development.
- Access to Talent – The bigger the organization the higher probability you will have a wide range of talent to partner with and learn from. Not just talent quality – but skill-sets and perspectives on product and project development.
- Developmental Coaching – Typically an HR department will provide some coaching and training. We are not referencing the biannual interpersonal communication training. With a variety of easily accessible experts budding entrepreneurs can get coaching from financial, legal, and engineering experts, sometimes simultaneously!
- Free coffee and donuts –Yes, but it is not good coffee and the donuts are only on birthdays.
- Connectivity to your first introductions to potential clients through the member’s networks – If you develop an innovation within an organization you basically have your first customer built right in! Moreover, depending on your organizational structure, you can reach out to other departments and engage them to use and adopt the new application.
- A wicked atmosphere filled with other ambitious diverse entrepreneurs that help feed your aspirations for success and serve as sounding boards and competitors simultaneously. Of all of the parallels, this one seems the most non-obvious. Like an incubator, it will take a fair amount of time and effort to develop an intrepreneurial community within your organization. Establishing a structure, attracting interested participants, and funding projects are just the starting points.
So before you pack your bags for Silicon Valley, or your local incubator, take a moment to look at where you are first. Explore how fertile the ground is where you are and consider what you can cultivate.
Randal Moss and David J. Neff are co-Authors of IGNITE Setting Your Organization’s Culture on Fire With Innovation. It is a field guide on how to start up an innovation center within your organization.
photo courtesy of WOCinTech [FLICKR]