Help for Entrepreneurs To Decide if a Business Incubator is Right for Them
Business incubators are an attractive option for startups looking for technical, financial, and physical resources in which to start their business. Diane Dimeff, Executive Director of eSpace, the Center for Space Entrepreneurship, answered some questions about working with incubators. eSpace is a non-profit organization formed from a partnership of the University of Colorado, a leader in aerospace engineering, and the Space System Group of Sierra Nevada Corp., an entrepreneurial space company located in Louisville, Colorado. eSpace is dedicated to creating new entrepreneurial space companies, commercializing aerospace technologies created within these companies and developing an aerospace workforce to support these companies.
How does the incubator decide which companies to accept?
The eSpace management and Board of Directors goes through a very thorough process of vetting the candidate companies after numerous discussions with each. The most important criterion we use to decide which companies to invite to participate in the eSpaceIncubator is an in-depth assessment of how viable an innovation really is in terms of its business case. This is where the decades of experience of our advisors, mentors, and Board of Directors comes in. We also look for a good fit between the resources we can provide and those that are needed by the candidate company. For example, if the candidate company is operating in a sector of aerospace in which we have little experience or few contacts to provide, then we suggest to that company that they may want to pursue other avenues. This does not happen very often, but it has occasionally.
How many new companies can be accommodated and in what time frame?
Since our inception in 2009, eSpace has incubated nine companies; we are currently incubating seven; plan to incubate 6-7 more this year, and 10 the following year. Our time frame with each company depends on where it is in the growth cycle when it arrives at eSpace but, in general, our incubation time period ranges from is six to 18 months.
Aside from proximity to like-minded people, what are the facilities advantage of the incubator, if any, besides just office space?
The CU Research Park, where eSpace is located, is home to companies that were established either in conjunction with the University of Colorado or were based on research that came out of the University. In addition to the entrepreneurial environment of the CU Research Park, we also have direct access to business and engineering students who are interested in aerospace entrepreneurship and want to work with a startup. We currently have several engineering and business students working with our incubated companies. Finally, our location on the campus enables us to develop strong relationships with the CU Aerospace and Engineering Sciences faculty members who are working on exciting new innovations. And, importantly, these faculty members are very entrepreneurial and are looking for opportunities to commercialize their research results. TIGON EnerTec is a great example of this in that Professor Jean Koster and his undergraduate research team developed the hybrid propulsion engine that is the core technology of TIGON. Although we are an independent non-profit organization, we are very closely tied to the University and its aerospace research.