April 3, 2013
Be Great Partners, a new incubator in Los Angeles, launched in February with a $6 million fund planned for startups.
The company is actually a hybrid of an accelerator and an incubator (a coworking space with extra programs and mentorship). Like the former, Be Great Partners offers office space, mentorship, and capital (around $25,000 per startup, for 5 percent equity). But there are no classes: startups can apply anytime. When accepted, they can supplement their team with Be Great Partners’ in-house development, creative, marketing, and legal departments.
This model is similar to fellow Los Angeles incubator Science Inc. Run by former MySpace executives, the incubator takes entrepreneurs with an idea, a small team, or even a large team and kickstarts them with operations help and capital.
Across the country in Indiana, Bloomington’s SproutBox funds three startups per year, helping with development, marketing, and business operations for 10 months and then releasing them into the wild.
“Sooner or later, this is the route all accelerators have to move to,” says Be Great Partners’ founder and CEO Lin Miao, who sold a company for $60 million at age 24.
But before they do, they’ll have to figure out some of the challenges. For example, in-house teams at these kinds of accelerators are arguably less invested in the startup than full-fledged team members might be.
“It is the entrepreneurs’ responsibility to oversee the project efficiency and effectiveness by instructing our in-house team, who will follow their lead,” says Miao. In other words, it’s up to the founders to make sure that any team members – even temporary team members from Be Great Partners – are pulling their weight.
Plus, startups at hybrid accelerators miss out on the social (and network-building) experience of going through a class with a dozen other startups. These “cohorts” can lead to friendships, peer-to-peer advice, and even business partnerships.
Exhilarator (formerly Endeavor DC), a hybrid accelerator that accepts about one consumer startup per month, believes that the drawbacks are outweighed by the value of hands-on, one-on-one mentorship. Even the smallest accelerators have around 10 startups per month, so they are hard-put to offer the same amount of direct support.
Hybrid accelerators may not necessarily be the future, but they are an attractive option for startups who want to co-create their ideas with a group of experts.
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