Recent studies by the National Association of Business Incubators indicates that there are an estimated 7000 incubators in the world.
What is a small business incubator?
Oonnut Mac Chinsomboon, a business incubation expert from MIT, took the original meaning of the word “incubation” (think chickens) and applied it to business. His definition for business incubators is:
“A controlled environment that fosters the care, growth, and protection of a new venture at an early stage before it is ready for traditional means of self-sustaining operation.” In today’s world, where information technology and the Internet are normal parts of the business environment, the term “controlled environment” could be either physical (real estate and office facilities) or virtual (networks)”.
Most of the first generation of business incubators in the 1970s focused on providing low cost space and a small set of shared services. These services included secretarial services, reception, telephone answering, meeting & conference rooms, kitchen facilities and parking. In the 1980’s many incubators offered business support and knowledge-based services to help accelerate the small business learning curve. Then in the 1990’s and ongoing were networks facilitating access to external resources, knowledge and legitimacy to overcome resource shortages, especially capital and startup teams. Now incubators offer these as virtual services as well.
Why should Veterans starting a small business use an incubator to enhance their success?
A Veteran entrepreneur’s objectives and metrics, however they’re defined, are generally the success of the venture. One of the main causes of venture failure is resource scarcity. Speed of execution can limit financial “burn”. A Veteran’s association with an incubator can provide resources such as mentors that can help accelerate access to resources and knowledge in a timelier manner. And of course, time is money.
Why would a Veteran trying to build a business believe they need an incubator to achieve success? Whether you are trying to build a local franchise, a national franchise chain or the next Microsoft, in today’s world you need a support team and as much help as you can get. One needs to limit risks before leaping into the business world. Entrepreneurs really aren’t significant risk takers, they are risk averters, acting to eliminate or mitigate the risks of their ventures, one solution at a time. If you’re a Veteran trying to identify your risks and workable solutions, an incubator could be the place for you.
There are various kinds of incubators for Veterans. At the national level, Bunker Labs supports military veterans throughout the journey of starting a business: from the idea stage—where active-duty service members are thinking about what to do post-service—to the growth stage of successful companies looking to hire, raise capital, and expand into new markets. Bunker affiliates around the country often partner with local community incubators.
An example of a local incubator which fosters Veteran enterprises is Hatch Innovations in Portland, Oregon. Hatch connects Veterans to communities and capital resources. Hatch helps Veterans marshal resources at local, state and national levels, including collaborating with the Small Business Administration’s small business support network for Oregon Veterans.
If you are a Veteran on a technology track, there is Patriot Boot Camp. This is a national effort organized under the TechStars startup accelerator to address the gaps in entrepreneurial support that military members, Veterans, and their spouses often encounter. Also, Vet-Tech in Silicon Valley focuses on Veteran sponsored technology startups.
Whatever motivates a Veteran to take on the risk of entrepreneurship, he or she should consider affiliating with an incubator that fits their idea and market.
VBS Founder and Managing Director, Jim Mingey, is a decorated Vietnam veteran raised from a proud military background. An entrepreneur for more than 35 years, Jim can relate on a personal level to the needs of the veteran small businessperson, and possesses the practical knowledge to implement his experience in today’s market. Jim participated in the EBV Program at Purdue University, has been a mentor at American Corporate Partners, developed the first approved franchise acquisition training program for the Vocational Rehabilitation and Employment (VR&E) Program at Veterans Administration, and was instrumental in forming the first equity fund in the United States exclusively for veteran owned small businesses and franchises.