Don’t prop them up

I had a very short but interesting “random” call with Taylor Davidson today, after I had commented on his blog a while back. Taylor recently drove across the country stopping along the way to meet as many interesting entrepreneurial people as possible. He’s been thinking about early stage company development extensively, so it was one of those rare times when I wanted to jump on a quick phone call to say hello. He’s also leading a discussion at SXSW called “Venture Capital for Long Tail Entrepreneurs” which I plan to attend to meet him in person.

On the call, Taylor and I talked briefly about how some incubator models take a very service heavy approach. Some offer up sustained “marketing services”, or other “business services” and work with companies for many years. We both talked about how we’re not huge fans of that model. At Techstars, we like to teach them how to fish (in 3 months), then let them go fishing. We don’t want to catch all the fish for them. If they catch fish, they live. If they don’t they die. And that’s natural selection, and that’s good.

We talked about the need to force companies to sink or swim early on in their lives, and to focus on building their teams and fixing their weaknesses from day one. Perhaps that’s why I’ve always disliked it somewhat when people call Techstars “an incubator.”  Don’t get me wrong, some true (old school) incubators are fantastic for the right kinds of companies, I’m sure. But right or wrong, for me, the term incubator evokes an image of companies who can’t (or won’t) survive in the wild.

file under: Blog, Startups