Startup School, Round Two: The 2010 Xconomy Guide to Venture Incubators

6/24/10Follow @xconomy

A common trait among entrepreneurs is their distaste for working alone. Fortunately, there are programs across the country that aim to surround startups with entrepreneur comrades, seasoned execs, and investors, to provide both community and guidance. We rounded up these programs last year in the inaugural Xconomy Guide to Venture Incubators, and are back again this year with a new and greatly expanded document that reflects the additions to the field and a revamped vision of what it means to be a startup incubator.

These programs have honed and launched a number of all-star tech companies, such as oneforty, the Boston-based app store for Twitter founded by Laura Fitton. She closed her seed round just weeks after joining the inaugural class of TechStars Boston last summer. Fitton attracted attention at the program’s investor nights, and even used the San Francisco version of the event to open the beta version of her product to the masses. “It was just adrenaline charged,” she remarked. Oneforty closed its Series A venture round months later, with backing from Boston and Bay Area investors.

Oneforty provides an example of the financial benefit that these programs bring to young, bootstrapped companies, but there are other elements of support that we sought to capture in this year’s roundup of startup schools. Innovation, after all, is really about evolution-adapting to unexpected market situations, advancing or reshaping old ideas into something better, coming up with new ideas.

And so it is with this guide. As programs for startups and entrepreneurs have proliferated across the country, new models have surfaced that didn’t exactly fit the definitions we set out last year—but at the same time were clearly just the kind of programs that should be included. So we’ve recast our own definitions (read on for details of our criteria)—and in the process, we have expanded the guide substantially, growing it from 20 entries last year to 34 for the 2010 edition. (Entries marked in green are new.)

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As we noted last year, there are literally hundreds of entities in the U.S. and Canada that call themselves business incubators, but that typically only offer rental space and infrastructure to upstart ventures. So in our inaugural guide we looked for programs that provide benefits beyond those, and mainly charge in the form of equity.

Those criteria still essentially hold, but we expanded this year to include programs, such as Washington, DC-based Springboard Enterprises, that don’t directly fund companies or offer office space, but which groom participants with intense mentoring and access to investors. Additionally, we took a look at programs that function as co-working spaces, but also provide coaching and access to investors, such as California’s Plug and Play Tech Centers. We felt strongly that this expanded definition more accurately captured the scope of incubators and additional ways purveyors of such programs are providing real value and service to entrepreneurs.

Several programs included in the 2009 guide—like TechStars, Dogpatch Labs, and TheFunded Founder Institute—expanded to new cities in 2010. So in that sense, the number of new entries this year has climbed even higher. Only one program listed last year-Summer@Highland offered by Highland Capital Partners-is not operating this year. Since Highland says it is taking a hiatus and has not decided to close the program permanently, we left it in the 2010 guide. Its fate should be resolved for the next edition.

No doubt we will evolve our definition again for the next edition. Please let us know about any additions or corrections you think are warranted (editors@xconomy.com).

A much expanded version of this list, in PDF format, is available for a modest one. For $79,* you’ll get information on each program’s focus, application deadlines and procedures, stipend and equity policies, notable graduates, and more. Click here to see what a full entry looks like, or click the “Add to Cart” button below to buy the PDF now using PayPal or your credit card. (If you choose to pay by credit card, first click the yellow PayPal checkout button, then look for “Don’t have a PayPal account?” on the next page and click the “continue” link beneath that.) *Price subject to change without notice.

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We intend to expand and update this list over time. Additions and corrections are welcome at editors@xconomy.com.

The Xconomy Guide to Venture Incubators: The List

Ann Arbor SPARK Incubator Network
Location: Ann Arbor, MI, Ypsilanti, MI, and Plymouth, MI
Founded: 2007
Xconomy coverage:
Five Companies Picked To Slug it Out for Ann Arbor SPARK Incubator Space,” May 24, 2010

Betaspring
Location: Providence, RI
Founded: 2009
Xconomy coverage:
Betaspring Unveils First Class of Startup Groups in Providence, Plans Micro-Seed Fund Akin to Y Combinator,” August 28, 2009

Better Labs
Location: San Jose, CA
Founded: 2008

Bizdom U
Location: Detroit, MI
Founded: 2007
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