Coworking

Coworking spaces provide entrepreneurs and intrapreneurs with an environment where everyone is working on their own thing, but doing it together.

When you choose to ride the lonely roller coaster of entrepreneurship, coworking can provide a cooperative, fun, and supportive environment. Coworking spaces are
built to energize your work and provide a professional location to host meetings as well.

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International Coworking Day is August 9th.

As you might imagine, working around others naturally leads to more interactions. A good coworking climate offers more than trendy office space. It provides members a sense of community. With so many good people in one place, coworking spaces often become a prime location for a variety of events as well. This allows you to get more involved with less effort required. Whether it’s educational sessions, random conversations throughout the day, impromptu happy hours, or larger community events, coworking connects you to more people who “get it.” The home office or local coffee shop is still great, but joining a coworking community allows you to focus on your work while enjoying a communal experience with more people who share an entrepreneurial spirit.

Incubators

Incubators warm you up until it’s time to hatch.

They are similar to coworking spaces, but incubators often focus on entrepreneurial education. This developmental focus attracts newer entrepreneurs and has incubators most often found in educational environments, with semester or year-long programs. Incubators can also be found outside educational environments. Public incubators may have less rigidity, but there’s still urgency that most entrepreneurs benefit from. The timelines of an incubator are not as compressed as accelerators, but there is usually a beginning and an end to these programs.

This rotational nature of incubators provide a cyclical, yet stabilizing effect within startup communities. Entrepreneurs working through incubator programs become stronger founders eager to stay connected. As founders transition out of an incubator, they add human, intellectual, network, and cultural capital to the entrepreneurial ecosystem. Their departure also makes room for the next class of entrepreneurs eager to develop a business within the incubator.

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Wondering how your business should evolve? Work around other entrepreneurs.

Another common draw of an incubator, is less expensive office space. Low rent alone attracts early tenants, but here lies the motive for many unhealthy incubators. If an incubator is only about cheap office space, the lack of heart will suck the cool right out. A fixation on cheap rent leads to less interest in helping entrepreneurs. This leaves floundering tenants starving for community. As cultural starvation occurs, entrepreneurs migrate and programs fail.

Incubators must be safe cocoons for less experienced entrepreneurs. They should allow entrepreneurs to repeatedly test, fail, and improve alongside their peers. With a supportive space dedicated to nurturing the entrepreneurial spirit, incubators allow connected entrepreneurs to hatch fresh ideas ready to fly.

Accelerators

Accelerators are incubators on steroids.

These programs recruit scalable companies that have shown early promise. They coordinate dramatic transformation within a compact timeline.They are like early-stage investment firms, as they provide seed funding in exchange for equity. Accelerators hedge bets by connecting entrepreneurs to resources, mentors, customers, investors, and community allies.

The rise of the accelerator model is interesting. Accelerators help entrepreneurs build stronger companies, but they need money to function. How do they support the financial investments in each company? What about staff salaries, community events, and all the resources they provide? There’s usually an initial fund raised to start these programs. Some accelerators also have financial infusions from sponsoring organizations. With this financial foundation in place, accelerators then depend on the performance of the companies in their portfolio. When a portfolio company is acquired or exits, the accelerator’s equity converts to cash or ownership options in more successful businesses.

As an accelerator’s portfolio performs, its reach widens and the program prospers. This motivates program directors to pick the right companies. It also gives founders the confidence that the experience is built for them to succeed. These complementary relationships are how accelerators make a lasting impact in less time.

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Accelerators vs. Venture Studios vs. Incubators

For entrepreneurs, so much potential makes it easy to fall in love with the idea of being an accelerator-backed company. As business owners consider applying to accelerators, it’s important to understand the terms. When startup accelerators first started in 2005, they were industry agnostic. As this collaboration-based investment strategy has evolved, industry-specific accelerators have also emerged. This means there are more accelerators than ever and not all of them will be the right fit. The educational, networked, and cultural experiences matter. Entrepreneurs must vet accelerators like they would other equity investors. Do terms of the accelerator align with the long-term goals of your company? Will the implied results outweigh an intense time commitment? Even if it’s temporary, will the team be required to relocate? How deep is the network of fellow founders who have worked through the accelerator? Do portfolio companies stay connected? If so, how does that connected landscape support your work beyond the program?

The accelerator experience can be life changing for a startup. Based on a deep understanding of each company, these action-packed programs #GiveFirst and help build on what’s working. They also quickly identify areas for improvement. This empathetic support combined with a shared mission to grow allows accelerators and their portfolio companies to be more successful as everyone collectively builds to go big.

Shifting Gears

Can you hear a distant motorcycle bolting into the night?

Hearing the sound of speed puts that wind in my face, but twas the night before we kicked off the 2022 class for Techstars Iowa Accelerator. This had me reflecting on the gear shifting that occurs in any growth process.

That first gear of any manual transmission is dedicated to initiating motion. It won’t get you very far, but as the red line arrives, a shift bring you into the next gear that builds on the momentum. As that next gear tops out, yet another shifts moves you further, with higher gears that eventually brings you to full speed.

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I owned a fast motorcycle in college. I treated the danger with redeeming respect, but after pushing this Yamaha FZR600 to 150mph, it was time to sell it…on eBay. In addition to speeding up, shifting gears also helps us slow down. Now I’m more of a convertible guy, cruising toward that wonderful wind in my face.

Any journey is a dance, but your destination would not have been reached without an ability to temporarily lose power in exchange for more lasting capacity.  Whether it’s personal or business growth, intellectual humility and recognizing when you’ve reached a limit, provides awareness required to drop the clutch.

Winding Whys

Asking “why” seems to be innate.

As soon as kids learn to speak, the inquisitions begin. The first few whys may emerge from innocent curiosity, but it’s easy to tell when the game is underway.

It’s easy to see how endless whys may lead to frustration (especially when it’s bed time, eh), but I’ve found joy in making these winding whys into a fun challenge for myself. Instead of shutting things down, I enjoy trying to quickly answer every why with an accurate answer. Can I mindfully outlast the youngster’s attention span? What fun!

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I’ve enjoyed winding whys many times, but “Dad, why do you love me?” gave me pause. I found myself feeling appreciative as I tried to coalesce endless reasons into one answer.

As I poked around, it felt trite to reflect on how humans have so many whys we can not answer. Instead of going down the paradoxical path or leaning into understanding our own whys, I found the Five whys interesting.

Developed by system thinkers inside Toyota back in the 1980’s, this iterative Five whys technique was used to explore the cause-and-effect relationships underlying a particular problem. When following 14 specific rules, after exactly five whys, the last answer often points to a process that is not working well or does not exist. This rigid technique has critics and would seemingly lead to shortsighted interpretations, but it was fun learning about this historic use of why. Knowing the value of complexity vs. simplification, as well as, so many other methods like active listening, Socratic questioning, casual diagrams, storytelling, inverse charisma, and pure wonder, the Five whys may not answer all the winding whys of our world, but perhaps it’s another tactic to throw in the mix.

Why not?