Best Practices for Successful Incubator-Corporation Partnership

Incubators and corporates collaborate for many reasons, not the least of which are funding, expertise, networking and innovation. During this collaboration, many partnerships face challenges that can make or break the relationship. There may be a culture clash, struggle for control or even a search for independence that can distract from the main goal. Fortunately, UBI Global has studied incubation programs around the world and can pass on to you the best practices for successful incubator/corporate partnerships.

What is the function of a business incubator?

An incubation program builds a bridge from startup to corporate that maintains the independence and freedom of the startup while offering their corporate partners innovation they could not otherwise afford on their own. Incubator programs are often directly or indirectly linked to universities, which increases their capacity to deliver services, talent, and resources for both startups and corporates. University-linked incubation programs have stellar reputations and are able to offer long term, intensive support for startups and corporate partners.

What are the best practices for great partnerships?

Obviously, this is not a quick, easy answer but we can outline the major conflicts that occur between startups and corporates during the incubation process. They are:

Best Practices for Successful Incubator-Corporation Partnership

To manage these conflicts, it is a best practice for the corporation to set explicit and transparent long-term goals. The corporate should have an overriding consensus within their own company structure on the desired level of collaboration and incubation process and the objectives that must be achieved during incubation. Preferably set before the incubation process begins, this gives a clear set of corporate goals to both the startup and the incubation program. With this set of goals in mind, the three conflicts listed above can be avoided.

Grow the innovation ecosystem

A central objective of many incubation programs is the creation and maintenance of a local innovation ecosystem. The value of the ecosystem is ultimately regarded as an indicator of the incubation program’s success. By merging talent, investment, support, and guidance from corporates with young startups, the incubation program can further nurture the ecosystem to flourish and grow. In turn, the successful ecosystem attracts more corporates and more startups with successful paths to market.

Nurture the partnership

Business incubators and accelerators are facilitators of the fruitful collaboration between startups and corporations. The incubation programs that UBI Global works with are responsible for thousands of startups in over 90 countries around the world. Thanks to today’s technology, partnerships between startups, incubation programs and corporates can happen across the globe just as well as across the street. Incubation programs make sure a mutually beneficial relationship is established between startup and corporate.

Benchmark the Incubator

Through their own benchmarking system, the incubation program monitors key points in the progress of the relationship. What is important for both startups and corporates to remember is to look for incubation programs that offer value and engagement. An incubation program that only offers workspace without mentorship, guidance and resources is not a good value and will not contribute much to the success of the partnership.

Corporates searching for an innovative startup partner need to work with UBI Global. We have done the work of gathering data, compiling benchmark studies and detailing the best practices of the top incubation programs in the world. By matching incubation programs with corporations hungry for innovation, UBI Global has been the catalyst of positive affiliations in almost every country.

If your corporation is ready to lend their visibility and expertise in exchange for new, disruptive technology, UBI Global can guide you into the best incubation program and startup for your partnership in the innovation ecosystem.

For more information, you may contact Ali Amin at [email protected].


Selecting high-potential startup companies to work with can be a matter of attracting the right types of businesses for your ecosystem. From there, evaluating the potential success of the startup may be both difficult and demanding. All too often, we have seen startup companies that look attractive on paper and count big investors among their supporters, only to eventually fail. Fortunately, UBI Global has interviewed the top university-linked incubation programs in the world and can provide you with solid information on how to attract, evaluate and select startup companies and entrepreneurs to your program.

High-potential startups

When you think of a “high-potential” startup, do you think of unicorn businesses like Uber, Twitter and AirBnB? Perhaps you think of a hard-working entrepreneur who has built a small organization on her own and established steady growth. Defining what it means to be a “high-potential” startup may not be easy from the outside looking in. While numbers such as margin, acquisition cost, churn, or profit may give an indication of the health of the startup, it is really a one-dimensional way of looking at the potential. Consider the following points in addition to the numbers:


Profit and revenue are the result of a positive impact that the startup has had on their industry. Measuring success of a startup by the impact they have had and the difference they have made in an emerging market or established industry can form a picture of success.


A startup company with satisfied customers means that they will keep attracting new business through great word of mouth. Satisfying their customers by building a solid product with high potential in the market and responding to feedback shows the attention to detail that startups need to build successful companies.


Startups with freedom in choosing where they are located, how they spend their time and how they create their product or service tend to be more successful over time. Freedom is an important trait to remember when choosing a successful startup partner and moving forward with incubation.


When putting together our Case Studies 2018 report, UBI Global was keen to ask our top incubation programs how they attract, evaluate and select high-potential client startups. Guinness Enterprise Centre in Dublin, Ireland, is a top incubator with a dynamic environment and impressive scores in Program Attractiveness.

“In short, our culture attracts start-ups; the biggest promoters of our work are our current clients and alumni as well as the quality programs we run here.”Eamonn Sayers, Manager, Guinness Enterprise Centre

According to Eamonn, part of the attraction of working with GEC is the reputation of their programs, given credibility through word of mouth. He further goes on to say that their social media is an important part of keeping GEC’s message in front of the proper audience and increasing their world of mouth. Incubation programs, therefore, should harness the power of their university partners, their alumni and graduates to spread the world on the quality and success of the program. Word of mouth driven by successful graduates is one of the most powerful testimonials an incubator program can have.


Financial numbers, impact, satisfaction and freedom aside, the evaluation of a startup should keep the long-term success in mind. The business model that a startup follows can be the factor in determining whether they will sink or swim through the incubation process.

Begin by gathering information on the overall strategy of the startup company and how they have defined their market. Then discover what the startup contributes to the market in terms of product or service and how they will break into the market they have defined. From there, determine how the startup attracts and satisfies their customers. Keep in mind that, as a startup, most of this will be experimental and will evolve and grow with the startup.

To simplify the evaluation process, sort their business plan into four areas:

  1. Margin (cost vs. selling price)
  2. Customer attraction, support and retention
  3. Market attraction
  4. Overhead (development and scale-up costs)

The health of these four areas in the startup can determine if it will scale up and graduate within a reasonable amount of time or at all, in some cases.


When you reach the point of selection of a high-potential startup, you should expect that the startup would be evaluating you at this stage. If they are not, this may be a red flag. At the very least, your potential startup partner should expect the following five things from you at the selection stage:

  1. In-person interview
  2. Discuss the network and the success of past support
  3. Discuss how they will be measured and evaluated
  4. Stress the hard skills provided by your program, such as legal support, financial modeling, investment management, due diligence, public relations, etc.
  5. Disclose ROI requirements and goals

For us, it’s all about building relationships, treating people with respect and developing a genuine personal interest in the startups. Eamonn Sayers, Manager, Guinness Enterprise Centre

After the due diligence is finished and you have made your selection, keep Eamonn’s words in mind and build a strong, lasting relationship. The success of the startup and the experience they have during incubation will reflect on your program in the long term. This credibility and successful track record will pay your program back by attracting more high-potential startups.

At UBI Global, we devote ourselves to creating successful member relationships. If your incubation program wants more startup applicants, you can count on UBI Global to guide you in how to attract, evaluate and select high-potential, successful partners. Become a Pro Member and enjoy a worldwide network of peers, corporations and startups and gain access to even more valuable knowledge and advice. To become a Pro Member of UBI Global, see our membership page here. To purchase a copy of our World Benchmark Report or Case Studies for 2017/2018, click here.