in Incubator/Accelerator, Incubators, Startups

An incubator for grownups…

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David Crow and others (Huffington Post, TechCrunch) have suggested we’re experiencing an incubator bubble?

Incubators are built for the young. Students exiting school are already living the ramen lifestyle. That means they’re cheap, they have no kids, no meaningful obligations and there’s a good chance they’ll work close to 24/7. It sounds dreamy, if you’re an investor.

I’m old. I have kids. I’m not moving to Boulder or California for 12 weeks. I don’t play games in the office or do busy work. Why aren’t there incubators for me? I look at the incubators like 500Startups, YCombinator and TechStars and that is what I want. I just can’t participate. I can’t do the work and change my family life the way they’ve structured it.

What I need from a incubator is…

To Pay My Own Way

While new graduates come cheap, grownups are capable of paying their own way. I’d rather work with someone who has some skin in the game over so-called low-cost labour. I’m willing to make an investment in a startup as a career choice.

While most incubators offer low, bordering on zero, salaries that barely cover living expenses for someone living on the ramen diet. This doesn’t work for me. I need to be able plan for my family and my kids. What I need is something closer to an executive MBA program or a sabbatical. Continuing education programs are interesting because current employers and banks will let you borrow against your assets to get started. It requires larger savings or a working spouse to be able to fund my family during the initial startup experience. I’m willing to buy in to make this happen.

Hunger, Drive

Many new graduates will compare working in a startup with a plain old job. This startup thing is cool and all but it’s a ton of work and my buddy working at AcmeTech is already done work for the day and playing XBox online. Building a business offers you freedom. Freedom from what? Corporate politics, busy work, crappy work, basically the standard boredom of the 9 to 5. How can you value that if you’ve never had a shitty boss?

I work for more than myself. My family and their future is what drives me forward everyday. I work hard when I’m working. When I’m not, I’m with my family and friends, I’m taking my kids to hockey, piano etc. What I’m not doing is placating my boss with more busy work.

I want to build a successful business for me.

Access to Mentors

Tell me if you’ve seen this. You’re sitting around a table discussing your projects and companies. Someone leaves the table early. One of the people remaining at the table proceeds to lay out in detail why that guys venture is going to fail. Why didn’t you tell him that when he was here?

The solution is for the guy who left early to get a cheque from the remaining person. As soon as she writes that cheque, she’ll sit that guy down and tear him apart and he’ll be better for it. Startups can drown themselves in mentors and advisors. I want to be at the table everyday with people truly invested in my project. Failure for no reason is not an option.

Learning The Right Skills

If you have a job today in technology and aspire to be an entrepreneur, typically the first step is to quityour crappy day job. You don’t have a team and project for your new business so you start consulting to pay the bills. You’ll be a great consultant, you’ll learn how to sell your hours, how to find clients, how to deliver services well. Skills that have almost nothing to do with taking a product to market. Once you head down this path, the likely destination is lamenting over some pints how “I was going to do product back when I left my job”.

Startupify Me

Startupify certainly wasn’t conceived as an incubator for grown ups, however, it does fill a lot of these gaps. While it likely constitutes a pay cut, we pay you to work on startup projects learning new technologies and the startup game. We partner you with established businesses who have a proven track record of creating sustainable businesses that deliver value to their customers. Everyone at the table has skin in the game. We go into our client companies, find and develop opportunities to build differentiated software to grow the stand alone value of their business.

If you have work experience as software developer and are ready to join the entrepreneurial revolution, we should talk.



  1. Brydon: Nice post. As much as incubators are hip and sexy, they’re also the flavour of the day, particularly the current model of having startups spend three to four months toiling away before their “coming out” party when they present to investors. One of the flaws is what happens when investors say “meh”. Then what? What do these startups do? Where do they go?

  2. At the risk of being accused of semantics (incubators vs. accelerators), if I look at accelerators the trend is actually towards more experienced people. At Techstars’ most recent demo days I saw some companies that were series A level. Techstars’ most recent cohort in Boston includes a company that has already raised it’s series A – before the program began.

    We had the same thing at founderfuel, where one team in particular included guys with previous exits. 

    “Grown ups” are drawn to the best accelerators not because of the cash, but because of the relationships and accelerated access to capital.  And while there is nothing that can be done about geography and having to uproot your family for 12 weeks (which would suck), if there is a good accelerator in your city with ties to the investment community, then you’re good to go.

    We did have 2 teams at founderfuel who disrupted their families. One moved from Vancouver with his wife and kids. Another left a newborn in Quebec city and went home on weekends. I guess it comes down to your objectives and the role that an accelerator can play in them.

    Startupify looks interesting, but I’m not sure it addresses your issues in full. And if someone’s objective is to start their own business, why this intermediate pit stop in someone else’s?

  3. Incubator = accelerator = cyclotron, there is no discernable difference. Deal with it. Damn dirty semantics. PS I accuse you of “semantic jujitsu”.

    100% agree with the “cash” is not the main reason to choose an accelerator. There are lots of examples of individuals that make personal decisions that include attending programs like YC or TechStars or FounderFuel.

    There is also an opportunity to try to help kickstart startup entrepreneurs locally. I’m interested to see what @brydon and the @startupify team are able to do.

  4. I don’t think there’s any doubt but that there’s an incubator bubble.

    On the one hand, that leads to unfortunate circumstances where sharks, attracted by the froth and chum, swim in to feast on the schools of naive entrepreneurs.

    On the other hand, however, it leads to innovation around the model, and what I see in Startupify is an interesting effort to try a different approach. I’ll be keen to see how it works out.

  5. Awesome.

    I find that the people I need/want to be working with my on a startup idea are not the kids, but the folks that can problem solve and figure something out on their own if need be, but also are not afraid to speak up about something or to ask for help.

    however… like myself they have their families to consider and don’t have time for playing around. 
    They most often don’t have time to work on something and still keep their day job… its just not possible to put that much time into something that might fly when you need to cover your kids karate class.

    They may not be able to put as much slog time in, but the wealth of experience and speed of work can far outweigh the perceived shortcomings.

  6. It’s almost never capital I’m short on, its dedicated (read also as invested) people with the right set of experience.
    I have a very hard time finding the right people when the time come to move beyond an idea and execute. Most of the time I execute myself which is fine, but then you need more than just the makers to maintain the momentum and hit the right buttons.For me, this idea sounds perfect.

  7. Great post Brydon, thank for invited us ( to Guelph Demo last Wednesday 

  8. This isn’t meant to replace existing incubators. They do address slightly different needs and clearly their models are more proven than mine.

    I suppose that’s one take but I don’t view this as an intermediate stop in someone else’s business. In the case of success, our client’s are interested in inviting our folks in as cofounders. The reality is all our clients already have thriving businesses they’re busy running.

    The simple answer is, if you’re ready to start your own business then you should do just that and I would assume those folks are talking to you and Real. We don’t have a paypal mafia here in Canada. I’m hoping we can get a bunch of folks some hands on practice launching tech based businesses. They may be invited to be in those or they may take those experiences elsewhere. We’ll have to wait and see.

    This may help clarify more…

  9. Agreed and again, I’m not anti incubator. They exist so surely they’re filling a real need. In my case, I want to find and work on real problems with real customers. Real problems are surprisingly simple to find when you hang out in thriving businesses who have customers. Not to name drop but companies like 37signals have done ok solving their businesses problems while keeping one eye on commercializing beyond themselves.

  10. I’m a grown up with a 15 year career, one kid here and one on the way…. and a new start-up.  I too looked into incubators but was not prepared to move my family and thus lose the steady income that my partner has.  I would love if a program was offered in Toronto.

    Here’s my list of what I would be looking for in an incubator:
    – a common pool of technical talent so that I can get my MVP up and running and “test out” technical co-founders
    – access to advisers and mentors
    – staggered demo days so that I can present and attract interest (people and money) at various stages
    – a group of like-minded entrepreneurs that have lived and survived in the real world… ones with mortgages, connections, families, dreams, and mad skillz’

  11. We hope to have all of that between Startupify.Me and ThreeFortyNine Coworking, where we work out of. We hosted a packed DemoCampGuelph this week and it was pointed out afterwards that 4 of the 7 demos were current, or former, ThreeFortyNine members, which is awesome to see.

    I have every intention of doing this in other cities if it makes sense. For now, we’re pioneering it here in Guelph.

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