Startup City Magazine

Entrepreneurs Need Lot More than "Incubators"

By Anupam Lavania, Manager, Incubation, iCreate

Anupam Lavania, Manager, Incubation, iCreate

An initiative of GFEE and a joint venture of GMDC & GEVPF, iCreate was founded in 2011 with an endeavor to seed a new ethos to understand & encourage entrepreneurship as a preferred career option as the company aspires to generate a log of quality entrepreneurs. 

There was a time in India when entrepreneurship was not much in vogue. Even now, while it is very much in the news, and in the limelight, it is far from becoming a "preferred career of choice". There are many reasons for this and not having a conducive support system is one of the major contributors.

On the one hand, there are a large number of incubators all around the country (DST supported Technology Business Incubators are 65(3 in Gujarat) till August 2015. Newspapers are touting increasing rounds of funding for many e-Commerce companies making lots of youth salivate to get their share. Amidst all these, hinting that there is not a “full support system for entrepreneurs” are fool hardy one would think. That, however, is precisely the problem. When an idea becomes populist, we tend to develop a rhetoric, which numbs our thinking and tempts us to do more of the things that are not quite working in the hope that scale is what would tip the balance, the more entrepreneurs, more incubators, more funding, more angels and more stories.

The founding team of iCreate worked together over the last fifteen years helping young entrepreneurs. We have seen their journeys up close and have evolved our notions of what support they need. In this article we share our views of what entrepreneur’s need, which has guided us to shape iCreate – a Centre of Excellence for pursuit of Entrepreneurship and Technology.

What Entrepreneurial Aspirants Need

Just as a good home has a kitchen, but the kitchen is not the home, incubators are needed as part of any entrepreneurial support system, but incubators cannot be the “full support system”. To be able to provide a total solution, we need to start from what entrepreneurs need. The popular notion is that entrepreneurs are “sure of themselves” and “know” what they want to do. It is just filling a few gaps. What they lack is physical space (lower cost), shared facilities, small funding to bring their ideas to proof of concept and then networking to help them “go to market” with lots of funding to reach the pinnacle of the potential and hence to-day’s model of incubators.

While entrepreneurs are driven, passionate, and self assured, in India many aspirants “are really not that sure” and often lack clarity or depth. Perhaps our society has forced “I know what I want” as a trait for would be entrepreneurs. Therefore, they want to “appear” sure. (They do know what they do not want to do). They also find themselves amidst people who would dissuade on first sign of “doubts”.

We believe what they need is an environment

To which they can relate
Where they feel understood
Which has knowledgeable people who inspire trust
Who help them prove themselves deeper

For them to discover “what they are good at” to find their sweet spot, and that which helps them identify and evaluate opportunities which are right for them.
So, when we started our thinking of what iCreate ought to be, we took off from our starting point – Innovative youth in India with a background or interest in Technology. The Centre would seek and nurture such individuals, challenge them to push themselves in a trajectory which is right for them and then work with them to guide their journey. Simple approach makes such a huge difference.

Shilpa Malik came to iCreate with a notion to do an ERP solution for restaurants. She was working in that domain, had international exposure, and was sure that was what she wanted. Three months into iCreate environment, and one day when probed she said, someday when I make money through ERP, I would get into medical devices. Asked why not now – she cited information gap. How long does it really take to bridge that gap? To cut the long story short, today she is working in a domain to non-invasively detect heart damage to be able to predict problems. Though she is still far away from making that a reality, the early signs are positive.

Hence, it is time that we discuss the needs of entrepreneurs and the roles of incubators to find ways to bridge the gap. Starting with aspirants, gives us a different picture of their needs. iCreate is structured to provide a total solution - it starts and engages much earlier in their journey from school, college, summers, early experimentation and works closely with entrepreneurs till they spin off.

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