silicon-valley-entrepreneur

Recently, Marissa Mayer joined Yahoo as the CEO so naturally I blogged about that (as a Millionaire story – her networth is estimated at over $300 million). As I wrote her story, it struck me that she positioned herself to be in the path of new ideas and opportunities.

Have you ever been in an environment where ideas pop out like mushrooms in the spring?

Perhaps you remember jam sessions at college, talking about how things should be or kicking around ideas for new products or services.

Perhaps you were lucky enough to work for a company that fostered idea creation and risk taking by dumping creative types in a pit with the power players who could make the ideas happen.

If you have started your own company, whether that be a blog, a web site or a shipping business, have you ever felt you were missing key pieces? Do you wonder what it is you are missing – to take your company to its next level? Do you wish for a wise and experienced coach to help you through the times when you are discouraged; help you find places to get help; challenge you when you become complacent; and maybe put you physically into that idea pit with other struggling entrepreneurs?

Do you ever think, “if only I knew so and so”, or “how can I get connected to other people doing this”?

You probably joined the Yakezie challenge to get some of the above, but do you need more?

Being part of a business incubator may give you more.

What is a business incubator?

Steve Strauss on USA Today defines them in  “Business incubator can mean a faster start for your startup” saying:

“Business incubators are collaborative programs designed to help new startups with some of the most vexing issues they face by providing work space, support services, networking opportunities and training.”

According to the National Business Incubation Association:

“Business incubators nurture the development of entrepreneurial companies, helping them survive and grow during the start-up period, when they are most vulnerable. These programs provide their client companies with business support services and resources tailored to young firms.”

 

According to Wikipedia:

 “Business incubators are programs designed to support the successful development of entrepreneurial companies through an array of business support resources and services, developed and orchestrated by incubator management and offered both in the incubator and through its network of contacts”

Most are non-profit – in existence to promote economic development in a particular region. Typically there is a selection process a new business goes through before being allowed to be ‘incubated’ and typically there is a fee (sometimes in the form of a piece of your company) to be in the incubation program. Often they receive federal grants and have a goal of making the incubated companies profitable. This goal supports the incubator (since they get part of that profit) and the local economy (since the businesses grow and create jobs).

What can a business incubator do for you?

The Southwest Florida Enterprise Center claims that the new entrepreneur can look to their incubator for “hands-on management assistance, education, information, technical and vital business support services, networking resources, financial advice as well as advice on where to go to seek financial assistance.”

What is it like to be in a business incubator?

Southeast Community College in Nebraska describes it like this:

“Incubator business owners have their own offices, shared use of copy/fax/scan machine, and access to our business coaches – all in a professional setting. During the three-year period, Incubator business owners are required to continue their education and or training, meet with the staff quarterly, and write a comprehensive business plan.

The Incubator environment also provides a sense of community. Business owners hold regular tenant meetings to discuss issues related to owning and running a small business, as well as those related to being a member of the Entrepreneurship Center. In the meetings, Incubator business owners discuss all aspects of small businesses including marketing, sales, support, and growth (to name a few) as well as brainstorm on ways to improve the Incubator Program/Center. The Incubator Networking Group members also publish an Incubator newsletter highlighting the Incubator businesses and promoting special events.”

Are there virtual business incubators?

Yes. A virtual business incubator can provide everything that a location based incubator provides, except the physical office (and with it corresponding equipment) and the face to face training, brainstorming and other interactions that occur in a location based business incubator.

What functions can a virtual business incubator fill?

  • One on one coaching by business experts specific to your business for the period of incubation.
  • Training, classes, presentations and webinars on business startup topics.
  • Introduction and match ups to investors and their advice.
  • Technical help.
  • Idea generation via peer-peer and business-expert communication (forums, web meetings, online or telephone conferences).
  • Match up the businesses to opportunities.

 How does Yakezie differ from a virtual business incubator?

Yakezie is a network of peer owners of personal finance and lifestyle blogs. The members and challengers interact in public and private forums to bounce ideas, help each other out and generally try to make their blogs as useful as possible to their intended audiences. Having said that, some of the things that Yakezie members and challengers do fit neatly into functions filled by virtual business incubators.

How does Yakezie fill some functions of a business incubator?

  • Peer to peer idea generation occurs in the public and private forums.
  • Local meet ups are sometimes arranged.
  • Members and challengers start joint projects to start new services (such as Woman’s Money Week) or learn new things ( social networking sub groups).
  • Competitions spring up to encourage next level thinking challenges such as niche site startup/revenue gain and the $30K income challenge).
  • Advice and encouragement occurs in the forums including technical help (mainly for WordPress), product/tool use suggestions, how-tos on diverse business topics such as marketing, legal issues, accounting and etc.
  • Resources are offered – you can find someone to help you with logo, web design, marketing and etc.
  • Access to monetization ideas, contacts and assistance is available.

 What does Yakezie lack as a virtual business incubator?

  • The purpose of the Yakezie network is narrower than a virtual business incubator. The network does not present itself as an entrepreneur assist.
  • There is no physical presence – no office buildings, copy machines and etc are available for use.
  • Yakezie does not match up mentors to mentees for ongoing tutoring.
  • There is no access to investors wanting to fund start up blogs or web sites.
  • Yakezie itself does not offer training, webinars, or presentations on start up topics.
  • There is no one-on-one business coaching for your blog (although this is offered by some members of the Yakezie on a fee basis)
  • Unlike a business incubator there are no fees! It’s free to join, if you meet the challenge.

Now that you know what a virtual business incubator is, I re-pose my title question:

Should Yakezie Be More than a Network?

The Yakezie motto, “Selflessly helping others”, makes me think that we could find a way to offer more of those functions offered by virtual business incubators. For example, a member sponsored project to provide new bloggers with training via an online training course followed up by a live web conference might be something that would be beneficial to both members (practice with training, presentations, conferences) and new bloggers (access to training by actual experienced bloggers).

We have plenty of expertise, lots of practical experience and already fill some of the virtual business incubator functions. Why not do more?

What functions of a business incubator could Yakezie offer? Should it? How can we?  

What type of business ideas would you focus on for the network if you had the time?

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