Ask Josh Harris: Which Incubator is Right for Me?


Dear Prof. Harris – There seem to be a ton of new tech incubators and accelerators opening up. How do I know if one of these programs is right for me and which one will be the best fit?

Sincerely, Freshman Founder


Dear Virgin Founder,

Business is really about integrity. Building it, maintaining it and guarding it. As you get more established (older) things get more complicated and lines get blurred, a story I’ll save for another time.

I grew up watching Mike Bloomberg build and grow his business in this manner. It was truly impressive watching him (from afar) conduct his business affairs over the years.  Of course, as a politician, he has my respect, but no longer my admiration –the third term monkey business was about him and his hubris and not about NYC. So Mikey the politician of course promotes technology incubators but Mike Bloomberg the businessman thinks otherwise. He knows the necessity of keeping an iron fist in the velvet glove: a warm, diplomatic face in public, but tight control on staff and the daily business at hand.

Specifically,  the problem with working in the context of an incubator is that a multitude of energies are pulling at you and your staff. It is sort of like being in an open sexual relationship (it can work but it adds an extra layer or three of difficulty over the long haul). Here a few commonly spread incubator diseases:

  • Zero Sum Game Syndrome: Another company actually starts getting traction so you (and more critically your staff) wonder what you are doing wrong.
  • Dead Egg Decay: Let’s face it most companies don’t hatch. Failure is contagious.
  • Behind Closed Doors. Business is a form of intimacy and your staff needs to develop a bond in order to compete in the world as a unified organism.
  • Unprotected Intercourse: Why expose the lovely lady (your best geek programmer)?
  • Cheating on Your Business. Your crew starts helping other chicks in the incubator (even in good faith) with their business (denuding the balls to the walls, 24/7 get it done at all costs, culture you need to engender).

Wear the Glove

Don’t get me wrong. Under the right conditions incubators and accelerators can work, so long as you wear the velvet glove. Keep your fist tight and get your own office space as soon as is prudent. Remember that letting your guard down even just once can expose your company to life threatening social media diseases.

Ask Josh Harris: Which Incubator is Right for Me?