Do You Really Need an Incubator? Join the Debate at XSITE on June 16

5/11/11Follow @gthuang

Although nobody seems to like the term “incubator”—mostly because of failures from the dot-com era—it’s clear that mentorship and accelerator programs like Y Combinator, TechStars, and MassChallenge have taken off in the mainstream consciousness of innovation. They provide lots of coaching, financial support, office space, and connections to investors and other startups. Yet in most cases they also take a piece of your company.

So one question we are asking at our third annual XSITE conference (June 16) is: Do you really need an incubator to succeed as a startup?

Of course there are simple answers to this question:

—No. Facebook, Zynga, and Twitter didn’t go through any such program. Plenty of other companies make it big without hooking up with an accelerator in their early days.

—Yes. First-time entrepreneurs need all the help they can get. Especially for Web and IT-based companies that can get a product out there quickly and adjust to the market, incubators are invaluable. Y Combinator companies now graduate with a guaranteed $150K in their pocket. TechStars is in four cities around the country, if you don’t want to move to Silicon Valley. MassChallenge offers prize money and doesn’t take an equity stake. There’s something for everybody.

But simple answers are not what we are about at Xconomy. We want the gory details, the untold stories, the controversies lurking under the surface. And so, on June 16 at Babson College, we are bringing together a motley crew of entrepreneurs, some of whom have graduated from the aforementioned incubators, and some who have not. We hope to get a constructive debate going over the pros and cons of the various programs, to provide a window into the incubator process so students, entrepreneurs, and investors in the audience can make up their own minds. (No chair throwing, please.)

We’ll have on hand: Sean Creeley of Embed.ly, who went through both Y Combinator and MassChallenge; Ziad Sultan of Marginize, from TechStars (Boston); Jason Jacobs of FitnessKeeper, who went through none of these programs; Charlotte Hubbert from Seattle-based Accelerator, a biotechie who will not be afraid to mix it up; and Jason Baptiste of OnSwipe (TechStars New York) is a tentative yes too. We’ll have plenty of questions for them. And we want to hear yours too.

We’re looking forward to seeing you at XSITE on June 16 at Babson.

Gregory T. Huang is Xconomy's Deputy Editor, National IT Editor, and the Editor of Xconomy Boston. You can e-mail him at gthuang@xconomy.com. Follow @gthuang

By posting a comment, you agree to our terms and conditions.

  • http://www.iijiij.com Debbie Todd

    We’ve been looking at accelerators on Innovation Investment Journal and making comparisons between accelerators and incubators. We’ve been trying to work out how suited these organisations are to replication. During our research we came across a really interesting accelerator, Starve Ups:

    http://www.iijiij.com/2011/05/10/an-accelerator-that-outperforms-y-combinator-and-techstars-08868

    This organisation seems to have been around for quite some time and appears to be delivering the goods. It’s made us wonder why Starve Ups doesn’t seem to be getting much in the way of attention from the tech news websites.