Learning from fellow startups I have regularly asked participants what they have found of greatest value in their incubator or accelerator. By far the most common response is what you learn from your fellow startups.
Most of to-day’s communications are by the internet, where every e-mail is tersely headed ‘Subject’ and labeled ‘data’. But you never know where a good conversation might go: it might prompt a connection, a revelation, or even an inspiration, and then lead you who knows where. So how do Startup communities harvest the benefits of being together?
Proximity. Bethnal Green Ventures (and many others) make use of pint-sized rooms in which their small teams work intimately with one another. Desks are often butted up to each other or in clusters (also Watershed, Bristol; and IdeaLondon.)
Regular meetings of groups whose members have issues in common, such as workshops, discussion groups etc. They encourage participants to articulate and wrestle with their issues (Plato Belgium, Cockpit Arts, Learning Marathons RCA.)
Regular meetings of whole cohorts – Y Combinator brings its participants together regularly for a meal, at which they are required to report on their progress, their problems and their plans (as does Bethnal Green Ventures and many others). At Watershed Bristol, the programme leader then circulated notes to everyone so that anyone could pick up and pursue another’s lead.(See also the UCL/RBS hi-growth programme for Scaleups.)
Breaks – café areas can be arranged to encourage conversations (Costa’s Chatty Café scheme proposes a long communal table); the Tramperies have coffee Fridays, IdeaLondon drinks evenings; and Loughborough University has an incubator kitchen where you can both cook and eat. The Ping pong table is emblematic of the games area – common to many accelerators and incubators.
Outings – trips to suppliers, customers, conferences, related experts etc provide opportunities for all sorts of conversations (Central Research Laboratory’s visit to China; ‘Entrepreneurial Scotland’s’ visits to Silicon Valley; I-Corp’s extensive programmes of enquiry.)
Online groups – some cohorts have also established their own internet groups (a London South Bank University group uses Slack.)
John Whatmore, March 2019