This is a special guest post from my friend and co-author Randal C. Moss.
When Sergey Brin speaks people tend to listen. But it is not enough to just listen, you have to think about the underlying drivers of those words and when you do… you get the message. His comments at the Global Entrepreneurship Summit were effectively that starting start-up in Silicon Valley is a bad idea.
So if not there where? Odds are that you will be more successful starting something up where you are then coming out to Silicon Valley. Oh … and before you go, look around. You are may be a big company which could be a perfect incubator if you just work at it.
Incubate an Incubator
When you think of what value an ‘incubator’ or a ‘start up hub’ or an ‘accelerator’ offers perspective entrepreneurs you can boil it down to a few key services.
- Access to Capital.
- Access to Talent.
- Developmental Coaching.
- Free coffee and doughnuts.
- Connectivity to your first introductions to potential clients through the member’s networks.
- A wicked smart atmosphere filled with other ambitious diverse entrepreneurs that help feed your aspirations for success and serve as sounding boards and competitors simultaneously.
With this exercise in oversimplification complete, let’s rewind the tape and look at this from an internal corporate point of view. Is it possible that a corporation can offer the same things? Wonder no more – the answer is a resounding, but qualified, yes.
Small, medium, and especially large organizations are primed to internally incubate ideas, grow innovations, and harvest the fruit of their investments. The challenge is that that are not structured for efficient innovation and lack the internal culture to nurture entrepreneurs. However, if they take the leap and make the investments they can compete with the most famous incubators and accelerators for talent and ideas. Don’t believe me? Consider these:
- Access to Capital – If you need cash you need not look further than large organization. Cumulatively they are sitting on $1.68 Trillion dollars. Stockpiles of cash are like potential energy – they only generate value when put into motion in a thoughtful way. Like funding internal innovation development.
- Access to Talent – The bigger the organization the higher probability you will have a wide range of talent to partner with and learn from. Not just talent quality – but skill sets and perspective on product and project development.
- Developmental Coaching – Typically an HR department will provide some coaching and training. We are not referencing the biannual interpersonal communication training. Or that sexual harassment training. With a variety of easily accessible experts budding entrepreneurs can get coaching from financial, legal, and engineering experts, sometimes simultaneously!
- Free coffee and doughnuts –Yes but it is not good coffee, and the doughnuts are only on birthdays.
- Connectivity to your first introductions to potential clients through the member’s networks – If you develop an innovation within an organization you basically have your first customer built right in! Moreover, depending on your organizational structure, you can reach out to other departments and engage them to use and adopt the new application.
- A wicked smart atmosphere filled with other ambitious diverse entrepreneurs that help feed your aspirations for success and serve as sounding boards and competitors simultaneously. – Of all of the parallels this one seems the most non-obvious. Like an incubator it will take a fair amount of time and effort to develop an intrapreneurial community within your organization. Establishing a structure, attracting interested participants, and funding projects are just the starting points.
So before you pack your bags for Silicon Valley, or your local incubator, take a moment to look at where you are first. Explore how fertile the ground is where you are and consider what you can cultivate.
David J Neff and Randal Moss are Co-Authors of IGNITE Setting Your Organization’s Culture on Fire With Innovation. It is a field guide on how to start up an innovation center within your organization.