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3 Keys for Incubators and Accelerators to Optimize their Service Portfolios

Working with startups is exciting, but it can also be difficult to keep up with a fledgling company, who can turn on a dime and remain nimble in their processes. The service portfolio you construct is a careful balance of providing value to your startup clients and managing your internal resources. With this in mind, this article digs into what a successful service portfolio that creates value for startups looks like.

Larger Offering to Startups Leads to Program Success

The World Benchmark Report 17/18 by UBI Global offered a clear picture of what a successful service portfolio of business incubators and accelerators towards their startups looked like. Of the fourteen categories of services offered by the benchmarked programs, the most successful (top average) programs offered eleven of these services. In contrast, programs that had average scores offered only nine services in their portfolios. Clearly, the programs that offered a wider range of services to their client startups were more successful overall.

Digging in deeper to the exact offerings that top programs offered that their lower scoring peers did not, the biggest discrepancies came in three categories. Access to Markets, Technology Transfer and Human Resources were services offered by almost all of the top programs, while the average programs offered these services 24, 29 and 31 percent less often, respectively. Taking a deeper look into these three categories, we can begin to form a picture of how these services contribute to the higher success rate of the top rated programs.

1- Access to Markets

This category is about the ability of the startup to communicate and trade in their respective market. The depth at which the startup can penetrate the market increases the long-term success of the company growth and viability. Providing a fledgling startup with access to their market early is a complex operation, often involving international trade, tariffs, quotas and more. There is a distinct give and take process when a startup first begins trading that should be carefully organized by the program. This is what sets top-ranked programs apart from their average performing peers: how well they orchestrate the access to market for their startups.

Understanding the processes that have an impact on market access is vital to the program. Fortunately, we have great examples in top-ranked programs such as Business Incubator of NRU Higher School of Economics (HSE Inc.) in Moscow, Russia, who conducts regular customer development activities, collecting feedback from client startups on a monthly basis with which to adapt and tweak their service portfolio. Providing access to the global markets has given HSE Inc. the ability to assist their startup programs in securing over $5 million in investments over the past 5 years, even though their startups are extremely early-stage maturity levels.

Top program tip – focus on the top processes that define a successful market access policy, which are:

  • Value Identification – Insights into consumer behavior and market trends

  • Value Creation – Research data to support product and service development

  • Value Communication – Thorough outline of value proposition in terms of commercial appeal

2- Technology Transfer

Converting scientific advances made by startups or students into marketable goods and services is a process known as technology transfer. Some university-linked programs are stellar at technology transfer, spending a great deal of time on prioritizing technological breakthroughs and forming patents on behalf of the university and startup ecosystem. Lower rated programs often struggle to merge the world of academia with commercialism, sometimes due to different philosophies on either side, among other challenges.

Programs that form a practical, strategic approach to technology transfer become the intermediary between the world of academia and the commercial market. Taking charge of licensing agreements is just one-step for a program to mediate and merge these two worlds. Top-ranked programs also realize they have to develop their own understanding of how each side works and bridge any gaps that may create obstacles on the way to a successful startup. By consistently forming successful, sustainable companies through startup incubation, programs are certain to develop a reputation that university partners know they can rely on and trust.

Top program tip – Investors and industry insiders love prototypes; university partners who can assist with prototypes help programs and startups translate the effectiveness and importance of the product or service to potential investors, government partners and the public.

3- Human Resources

In the case of the UBI Global World Benchmark Study 17/18, the definition of human resources as part of a program’s service portfolio goes beyond the basic principles of recruiting and onboarding. In the case of the top-ranked programs, human resources are the actual people provided to the startup as part of the service portfolio.

Top-ranked programs know that universities are a gold mine of qualified, educated potential employees and staff for their startups. Working closely with research and development teams in the university puts healthy programs in touch with a vast network of faculty and students that become collaborators and even employees and officers of the graduate companies.

Top program tip – one of the best things about collaborating with a startup is the freedom to explore and to be different. This will appeal to many students, who crave innovative, risk-taking entrepreneur-focused cultures. Make sure your program conveys the type of culture and attitude they are looking for when recruiting for startup collaboration.

UBI Global is busy mapping, highlighting and connecting the world of business incubation through our World Benchmark Study 17/18. Join our network of more than 1200 member organizations worldwide that count on us to provide the best practices and tips from top university-linked programs.


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