Some things to think about prior to signing up?.
1 Get to know the incubator manager. This person could be crucial to the success of your business. Good ones will save you time and money and occasionally pick you up when you want to give up completely. Great ones are angels.
Incubator managers can identify key sources of funding, feed in to your strategy, introduce key clients, assist with recruitment and see opportunities for you. If you charm this person there is no end to the favours they could do. Make sure that they understand what you are trying to achieve and that you can reach them when you need them. Always remember that they are also likely to be your landlord (as well as your business advisor) ? so do everything you can to get them ?on side?.
2 How much prestige does this establishment have? Are people going to be impressed by the address? Some facilities give you instant credibility; as a result some people will take your business much more seriously. Being part of a successful incubator is one way of letting people know that you are serious about what you are doing. Try to establish what the facility ?brand? will be worth to you. Are there opportunities for you to showcase your company?s work? Do the people that you want to influence attend?
3 Talk to the tenants. Hang out in the café; ask what it?s like to work there. Find out what the problems are - other tenants won?t hold back with their criticisms. Establish how their enterprises have moved on by being part of the facility. Are there people here with whom you?d like to collaborate? Will being part of this place make aspects of your job a lot easier?
4 Will you like the overriding culture of the place. Are you going to fit in? Do you like the people you meet here? What can you contribute to it? Is it a place where you feel comfortable? What do the aesthetics do for you? Are you happy with the degree of formality or informality that you find here? Find out about the people who started it.
5 What technology does the incubator (or other tenants) offer? If ADSL is standard and up to now you can?t afford it ? what impact would it have on your venture? Are there better quality scanners or printers or photocopiers than you currently use?
6 What regular training events take place here? Is being here likely to improve the professional development opportunities that you or your staff have? Do any key networks meet here that might benefit you? What are the meeting room and conferences facilities like and are you likely to use them?
7 Do your sums and be prepared to negotiate. Commercial incubator space is not cheap. All these additional benefits have to be paid for by someone. Where ?soft? money is involved in the development though, considerable savings can be passed on to the tenants. Incubators offer flexibility; short term, easy in-easy out leases are standard (which is quite handy in our industry).
And remember ? when doing your research, you and your business are being weighed up too.