A business incubator is a program that gives very early stage companies access to mentorship, investors and other support to help them get established.
Companies that use business incubators are start-ups in their “childhood” phase, meaning they have just launched and are still defining their operational models and goals. Businesses that have moved beyond the incubator stage would instead use a business accelerator for support.
In addition to mentorship and investment opportunities, a business incubator gives young companies access to logistical and technical resources as well as shared office space.
Because every company develops at its own pace, an incubator program can last anywhere from several months to a few years. In every case, the goal is to give start-ups the tools and knowledge they need to stand on their own two feet.
Some incubators operate as non-profit organizations while others provide seed capital and support in exchange for equity positions (i.e., ownership) in the companies.
More about business incubators
Incubators are often organized by sector or region. Some Canadian examples include:
- Flightpath in Edmonton, Alberta which focuses on software and digital media start-ups
- The Research Innovation Commercialization Centre in Mississauga, Ontario, which supports a wide range of technology start-ups
- Velocity at the University of Waterloo in Ontario, which supports companies started by students of the university