Yesterday evening I got into a conversation with two friends about the growing number of incubators that are following in Y-Combinator’s shadow. Are they beneficial to the entrepreneurial ecosystem? Can the startup ecosystem really benefit from all of these companies that can be written off as features? Aside from the poor economics behind startups, and the absolutely horrendous job that Ycombinator and many copycats have done in teaching their participants on branding (seriously, Fukime, munchonme?!??!) there’s an optimistic view.
That view is that all of these incubators serve an important role in teaching the most important lesson for any entrepreneur: your dreams truly can become a reality. That business idea that you question every night you go to sleep, and even consider quitting after spending months (or even years on), can actually be turned into reality. You see, while the tech publications celebrate the large funding rounds of startups, the huge exits of a select few, and the pivots of countless others, there are few publications that celebrate the pain that every entrepreneur feels.
The nights that you can’t sleep because you realize how crazy it was to pursue the dream you dreamt, or the days that you think another path would be a hell of a lot easier and honestly consider taking it. None of these days are covered or celebrated. This is where the incubators become valuable. We need more entrepreneurs in the world. We need people to know that ambitious dreams are actually possible to accomplish. In order for that to happen, we need more people to get a taste of success, no matter how big or small.
So how do they get there? In short: cheerleaders. The incubators help push these entrepreneurs along a path and encourage them to follow their gut instinct. “No, you aren’t crazy, you’re probably right”, mentors will tell the entrepreneurs. Right after your most terrifying moment when it seems like everything is about to collapse is probably when you’ll have your greatest breakthrough. In order for entrepreneurs to get through the steep drops that startup life brings, incubators serve an invaluable service: teaching entrepreneurs that if they dream it, they truly can create it.
I believed my own bullshit multiple times before I finally had a success. But after all those failures, all the pain that blew the wind from my sails, I learned that I actually wasn’t so crazy for believing. More importantly, that one success has given me the confidence to dream even bigger. If we can have one more believer in the world that they can create change, that they can turn a vision into a reality, and if incubators can help teach that lesson, I’m all for them no matter how many there are.