We have all witnessed a lot of ideas dying at an early stage because of various reasons, such as, not having the right team, questionable execution capabilities, cash crunch etc. Now we have another reason to add in the already exhaustive list, i.e. COVID-19. As a part of an incubator team (AIC-BIMTECH), there are certain reasons why I feel this is the right time for an early-stage startup to join an incubator and why it would this can be the Sanjeevni for the early-stage founders.
- Incubator Common Resources: To build a startup post-corona would be extremely difficult, as funding opportunities would be scarce than ever before. A lot of CSR funds and grants are now focussed towards supporting the battle against COVID-19. This means less opportunity to get grants or do paid pilot for startups with different agenda, which I think is where an incubator can play a role. Incubators can provide the necessary support like reducing the cost of the pilot, providing common resources such as co-living, co-working, free tools, common team etc. I also feel that it is very important for a founder to do thorough research before joining an incubator. The post-corona scenario will see a severe downfall in the “we have the VC network/connect“ mentality. Only if the incubator has a VC on board, or if the incubator has its fund or grant mechanism, they will be able to bring you capital. A deeply well-connected network is required to bring the capital, which will turn even more difficult in coming times.
- Build relations that last longer than your startup: We have seen this in our program, that the founders end up finding and making relations with people in the ecosystem, with whom they resonate on the same frequency. This would now be required more. We would need support from people who are similar and understand the pain points of the task ahead, while building relations that could sometimes last longer than the startup itself.
- Learnings from incubator team: Consider an incubator as a catalyst. It all depends on how good a startup founding team is to utilize this catalyst in their reaction. Understand the dynamics, as the incubator team might not be always correct, but discussions with them for possible solutions would lead you in the right direction.
- Build network through incubator: A good network can take you places and if a founder understands this, he/she can do wonders. It is a bonus to be with an incubator at such time so that you can use their resources and build a network that is necessary and useful to you. There is a value in the network that at times bypasses many steps in the ladder of success, but this path must be trodden very carefully. We have seen it many times that the founders make commitments due to various reasons and are unable to deliver, which, in turn, burns their bridges. Ensure that you are ethical and deliver your commitments.
- Negotiation skills to be better founder: A good incubator teaches you negotiation skills. You have to first negotiate for the partnership, then negotiate for the value and then negotiate for the learnings. Remember, if an idea of yours fail, then start again, because India waiting for you post-corona would need resilient founders. Founders with focus and vision, as the world would be different and super difficult to navigate.
These are our thoughts from the perspective of running an incubator, as we have seen a lot of up and downs, but disasters like COVID-19 occur once in a century. If it can be seen as Ravana and you want to be Shri Ram, then better find your Hanuman.