The Response from Non-Profit Incubators

Despite the recent media hype around the rise in privately-backed seed accelerators and coworking spaces, the vast majority (over 90%) of entrepreneurship incubators / centers are non-profit incubators that are mission-driven to create regional economic growth through entrepreneurship. In order to respond to the rapid growth of entrepreneurship incubators as an economic strategy in virtually every region of the world, many incubators have grown in to “super hubs” that offer a mix of shared (coworking) space, robust mentor networks, private offices, networking events and accelerator programs under a single roof.

Collectively these hubs make up a global network of entrepreneurship incubators / centers that serve over 100,000 early-stage companies annually. They are located in urban, rural and developing regions in every country, and are often the anchor hubs for urban innovation districts. In the past week, I learned about amazing entrepreneurship hubs in places such as Sioux Falls (South Dakota), Iran, Colombia and Wilmington (North Carolina). I am honored that many of these centers are also InBIA members that are providing their local entrepreneurs with access to facilities, mentor networks, and capital that are critical for early-stage companies to take root and grow. This need is particularly important in communities with economic challenges that can range from loss of industries in urban areas (Detroit and Pittsburgh) to the inherent economic challenges consistently faced by rural communities both in the US and globally.

Challenges Entrepreneurship Centers Face

No matter where in the world entrepreneurship incubators are located, I have heard very consistent feedback about common challenges entrepreneurship centers of every type and size face in their efforts to provide sustainable, high quality places for entrepreneurs in their communities to launch and grow great companies. The top two challenges that come up time and again are:

  1. Developing sustainable models to fund operations
  2. Tracking economic impact metrics that are relevant to their funding stakeholders.

It turns out these two variables are inter-twined, as graduating growth companies that create jobs attracts entrepreneurs, sponsors and other funding sources.

InBIA’s Next Steps

Over the next year, InBIA will be showcasing some of our members that are running top notch entrepreneurship incubators and centers alike in geographically diverse, challenging ecosystems to provide case studies for other communities to learn from. In addition, InBIA just launched a series of training courses that specifically focus on revenue and funding strategies, monetizing shared workspaces and tracking key economic metrics. We are excited to be launching these courses at our annual International Preconference, which will be held from March 25-26, 2017 in Seattle, Washington. If you’re interested in joining us, check out the full offering of here. In addition,  I would love to hear from you about specific challenges you have in your local entrepreneurial ecosystem!