Business incubators are designed to help startups during the early stages of their development. They can be the ideal solution for people who are new to the business world but lack direction, or even for entrepreneurs who don’t know how to take it to the next stage.Some incubators focus on specific industries, while others are designed to help startups get off the ground. Regardless of the sector, they’re all designed to help you get started and there will almost certainly be an incubator to suit your needs.

Before you commit to an incubator, create a Business Model Canvas (BMC) to help identify the right fit. This template was created by Alexander Osterwalder in 2005 and is a step-by-step process that will help you develop a compelling and sustainable business model – or the value you promise to deliver to your clients to meet their needs (do a fast Google search for BMC and you will find several templates that you can use for free).

With a Business Model Canvas (BMC) you’ll have a clear tangible starting point for your business idea and its potential markets. But, if you’re still at an early stage in your thinking, the time is suitable to turn to an incubator, especially when:

You only have the idea for your startup: If your business idea is at the concept stage, then however good that concept is you’re probably not getting much further if you don’t learn how to commercialize it.
You want to set down the roots: At this point, you can opt to either search for some yourself, keeping in mind that the good locations can be pricey, or consider an incubator.
You don’t have any connections: Not all of us are born networkers, and that’s totally fine. However, setting up a successful business requires that you find the right people with whom to do business, whether that’s potential partners and collaborators, distributors, or your customers base.
You need funding: You just don’t have the capital to take your business where it needs to go. Fortunately, incubators are able to either provide that or if not put you in contact with those who can.

Each incubator has its own criteria and requirements, and they’ll often be looking for a startup with a great idea and potential for growth. Some may require a fully-fledged business plan, while others may stick to supporting your innovative idea with its appropriate business model.

There are a variety of incubators out there, so make sure to do your research to find the one that fits your needs. Doing so will help you identify the ones that are most likely to meet your needs. You’ll discover an array of incubators specializing in specific industries, such as software development, alongside others with a wider range of expertise.

Once you have found the right fit, start preparing for a rigorous application process. It’s also important to note that many incubators are oversubscribed, so competition for places on their programs can be fierce. While it can be very helpful to focus on your startup’s goals, becoming a part of an incubator can also help lower your startup’s operating costs, and help get your business idea off the ground.

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