What’s a better path to success? Being part of a group or going at it alone?
For many entrepreneurs, being part of a larger entity has helped get their businesses off the ground much more efficiently. Thus, an incubator can be the perfect step towards taking take your idea from the paper napkin to profit. Starting your own business can be exciting but also daunting, and you’ll probably come across unexpected challenges that you’ll need to navigate through to succeed.
The impressive start-up culture in the Middle East has led to the development of government organisations setting up numerous initiatives to support this rise in innovation. In recent years, the region has become home to over 5,500 start-ups, indicating an excitement for — and surge in — the innovation sector. From mobile apps for every aspect of your life, to services you didn’t know you needed, to life-changing products, entrepreneurs are brimming with ideas.
The urge to create and bring these ideas to life is ever-present, leading to competition across industries. Cue incubators to help entrepreneurs find an edge in this competitive market. An incubator is a programme that offers just-hatched start-ups the guidance and support to grow. Incubators help start-ups to be investor-ready, providing the knowledge and tools necessary to develop their products, enter the market, and start generating sales.
The UAE is, by many measures, the entrepreneurial and innovation capital of the region and as a result, home to a large and growing number of incubators that provide entrepreneurs with office space, business advice, and funding for their emerging start-ups. According to a report by Magnitt, the UAE leads in MENA as home to 42 per cent of its start-ups, followed by Egypt (12 per cent), Lebanon (9 per cent) and Jordan (8 per cent).
The benefits of enrolling a business into an incubator are plenty. Here are five reasons why incubators are key for start-ups:
Roomier than the garage
While the age-old story of corporate giants growing out of cramped garages or basements might sound glorious, you don’t actually need to slave away underground to ensure success. Incubators allow you to make use of beautiful co-working spaces, with open-plan offices, speciality coffee stations and, of course, free WiFi.
Being part of an incubator means you get to set up shop and immediately start working on your product, without the worry of sky-high rents while you are surrounded by a supportive group of fellow passionate entrepreneurs.
Mistakes are welcome
As an entrepreneur, you will inevitably make mistakes. You could plan out every scenario, prepare for every plot twist, but the curve-ball is always around the corner. It’s part of what makes entrepreneurship so exciting.
The great thing about Incubators, however, is that you have a safety-net.
The fear of making mistakes is the biggest hindrance to innovation. Having an army of mentors and experienced entrepreneurs who are there with your best interests at heart, makes experimenting less scary. You are able to take more calculated risks without the fear that it could sink your business.
Speaking of experiments, here your lab Incubators come with numerous perks to fuel your trials, such as knowledge through intense workshops and one-on-ones, space, and access to funding grants. This allows aspiring creators to keep pushing with new ideas, fine-tuning their startups in a controlled environment before launching them out into the market.
And your support system
Why limit yourself to just your personal experience to draw from, when there are mentors with years of expertise to guide, support and encourage you?
Incubators pair you up with mentors who are well-versed in your field and have valuable insights to help on the kind of startup you would like to build. Aside from helping you out on the technical side of things, mentors can also be confidence-boosters and a source of comfort on the days when nothing seems to go right.
The intricate web of who’s who
Knowing who to call when you hit a roadblock or need a connection can be the deciding factor between success and failure. These contacts aren’t made overnight, of course, but joining an incubator means tapping into a curated network of some of the best and brightest in the ecosystem.
The moment you step into a co-working space, you’ve already expanded your address book with entrepreneurs in the same boat as you, industry leaders coming in for talks and workshops, and government partners with big contracts looking for your innovative solution.
The list could go on, but it is difficult to capture the value of an Incubator programme in just a few words. The bonds built, the knowledge gained, and the strides made with your business must be experienced to be believed.
So, if you’ve got your business plan and the unwavering belief in the power of your idea, but need some help getting your startup off the ground, then joining an Incubator programme should absolutely be your next step.
— Saeed Alnofeli is the Venture Creation Manager at Sheraa.