Incubators, accelerators, business developers, startup weekends, coaches, consultants… Do these terms confuse you? Some people use these interchangeably; others make a distinction that’s important to them. Where do these business efforts fit in relation to a consulting group like IBEC?
First, we define IBEC Ventures as a consulting group offering a variety of coaching, mentoring, training and consulting services.
At IBEC Ventures, we assist entrepreneurs committed to creating Values Based Businesses in all phases of the process – from identifying viable opportunities through nurturing their long term growth and development. IBEC Ventures serves clients through consulting, training modules, coaching and mentoring, and spotlighting the overlay of mission strategy with business planning. The IBEC consulting process includes consultants as well as subject matter experts who focus on specific business elements such as product development, supply chain management, finance, technology, law, marketing and sales.
(From Our Services on the IBEC Ventures website)
We help entrepreneurs and business leaders with all phases of their business development, from assessment of individuals and opportunities through to mentoring and on-going support. We use coaching techniques, come alongside our clients by listening, making suggestions and giving advice where appropriate.
But consultants can only do so much. What else is out there to help the Kingdom entrepreneur?
Incubators, accelerators and business launch organizations
These terms are similar in that they focus on the front end of Kingdom business startups and prepare them for growth. They are all about equipping, training, coaching and supporting the entrepreneur in the early stages. I’ve heard it said that business incubators mentor companies through childhood, while business accelerators guide them through adolescence into adulthood.
An incubator is dedicated to startup and early-stage companies. The entrepreneur applies for admission and is accepted based on feasibility of ideas, assessment of capacity, and likelihood of success. Sometimes office space is provided but the heart of the program is the services to which they have access: advice and guidance from professionals such as proven entrepreneurs, accountants, business advisors, legal experts and others. There are thousands of established incubation programs worldwide, but in the BAM space they are in their infancy.
An accelerator usually serves those who are beyond startup and incubation stage. The entrepreneurs may be up and running and experiencing challenges for the first time such as financial planning, strategy development and validating their unique value proposition. Accelerator programs tend to help companies over humps and are shorter in duration than incubation programs.
Business development centers tend to be linked to universities or state economic development agencies. They provide aspiring business owners with a variety of free business consulting and services such as business plan development, financial assistance, legal and market aid, HR support etc. An example of a small business development center is operated by the Michigan Economic Development Corporation. Their Guide to Starting and Operating a Small Business provides is a number of helpful self assessments, checklists and step-by-step outlines for starting a business.
Startup weekends are typically about 50-hour weekend events where developers, designers, marketers, product managers and startup enthusiasts come together. They are hands-on experiences where entrepreneurs and aspiring entrepreneurs test out their startup ideas. They make open mic pitches and lay out their best ideas and then teams provide feedback and validation to the ideas. Over the course of the weekend teams build a minimal viable product (MVP) and demo their prototypes for feedback from a panel of experts. Explore more about this on the Startup Weekends website (http://startupweekend.org/).
Coaching goes on in all of these efforts and is the intentional structured process that empowers the entrepreneur to be effective through vetting his or her ideas, processing coach questions and discovering next steps. Coaches have experience which can be of great value to the business startup entrepreneur.
These definitions are highly relative and oftentimes organizations working in this space use terms in crossover ways. The websites of organizations in this domain with whom we partner use terms to describe themselves such as “equipper of BAM leaders”, “a comprehensive entrepreneur equipping program”, “a business development organization”, “a business launch and development company”.
Whether an incubator, accelerator, business development group, or startup weekend – all seek on the front end to help the entrepreneur begin well so as to maximize the chance of long-term success. That’s our goal for IBEC clients as well: laying the groundwork up front and ongoing for sustainable, profitable businesses. It’s a privilege for IBEC to partner with a number of these organizations to provide the resources BAM businesses need for long-term success (and eternal rewards!).
Larry W. Sharp, Director of Training, IBEC Ventures