We all know that starting a business is a long and difficult journey that never ends. However, the hardest part of it is always the beginning. Sure, at the start, it’s kind of like falling in love or finding a great new hobby – you’re excited, your company is all you think about, and you’re willing to go above and beyond for it. However, the honeymoon period begins to fade and the next tough part emerges.
Once the honeymoon phase is over and you have to start making difficult decisions (especially ones that involve spending money or finding solutions to the arising problems), you might come to realize that you don’t know all the answers and are in need of some help.
That’s typically the point at which entrepreneurs begin looking at startup incubators as a way to not only get funding but also help in navigating the wild journey that is starting a business. And so, in this article, we will discuss the best startup incubators in Central Florida, and how they can help early-stage business owners.
What is a Startup Incubator?
A startup incubator is essentially a program designed to help new businesses succeed. When issues begin to rise, incubators are there to help entrepreneurs solve those problems and move on to the next stage. Whenever entrepreneurs start to face issues, incubators are there to step in and assist. Those problems typically include things like helping them find a workspace, funding, and mentorship programs. All in all, the purpose of startup incubators is to help entrepreneurs grow successful companies
In most cases, startup incubators are non-profit organizations run by both private and public entities. You will notice that most incubators are related to universities, and some business schools (such as McCombs or Columbia) even enable their students to become a part of their programs. With that said, there are also incubators funded by civic groups, successful entrepreneurs, and of course, the government.
If you’ve heard about incubators in the media, we’re willing to bet most of the occasions have been related to tech startups. However, in reality, there are incubators available for a multitude of industries. In fact, incubators tend to shift their focus based on the region they’re in. In New York City, for example,
there are several incubators dedicated to the food and fashion industries, as these types of businesses tend to be quite successful there. Along with that, there are the so-called “all-purpose incubators” that support all kinds of startups, regardless of the industry.
What Services are Commonly Delivered By Startup Incubators?
Some entrepreneurs often wonder exactly what kind of services they can get by participating in an incubator. This list includes :
- Networking opportunities
- Marketing assistance
- Access to high-speed Internet
- Business basics support
- Financial management assistance
- Access to funding through loans, guarantee programs, and startup funds
- Help with presentation skills
- Connections to higher education resources and strategic partners
- Access to venture capital or angel investors
- Business training programs
- Advisory boards and mentors
- Help with business etiquette
- Management team selection
- Legal counsel
- Regulatory compliance support
As you can see, startup incubators aim to cover every possible problem area that a starting entrepreneur might have; from simple support, such as business etiquette, to more complex issues like financial management and legal issues. Typically, when people are just entering the entrepreneurial world, this type of support is exactly what they need in order to move on to the next stage and grow a successful company, which is why incubators are so focused on them.
Why Startups Need an Incubator
We often hear entrepreneurs doubting incubators, saying that it’s better just to hire one single mentor to guide you through the difficult first stages of owning a business. However, we’d argue against that.
Most newly formed companies typically start as a small operation of a few people, in some cases even one person – the founder, who acts as a CEO, accountant, legal counsel, marketing expert, and so on. For some, this small operation might work at the beginning, but as it grows, and for those already in the growth stage but looking for more support in order to scale further, it quickly becomes apparent that changes are required and outside aid is needed. This is when startup incubators come to the rescue, mainly by guiding the business owner through a few key phases designed to move them through their next steps. Let’s take a look at what these phases are and how an incubator might help you as your company grows.
Providing structure and focus
The start-up of any company is usually a little messy. People are struggling to get things done, the stress levels are high, and often, the communication is unclear. A startup incubator can assess the situation and offer some new business structure, focusing on the things that require improvement the most. That way, the founding team can start focusing on the most important tasks at hand until their business model becomes clearer.
A startup incubator can provide a full-on business infrastructure that ensures the work environment is free of distractions and focused on achieving goals and objectives
Issues with lack of funding often plague startups. And one essential part of startup incubators is their partnerships with investors. Anyone who’s ever tried to find funding knows how difficult it can be – not only does your idea have to be good, but you also need excellent sales and presentation skills and the ability to market your team. Typically, startup incubators will connect businesses to funding, help entrepreneurs fill out their applications, and teach them how to pitch their idea effectively.
Workspace and Equipment
We all know that a lot of businesses nowadays start online. However, at some point, you will want to work with your team in person. When that moment arrives, startup incubators can give you a proper workplace environment – with comfortable furniture, computers, and high-speed Internet, allowing you to collaborate effectively with your team.
Access to Financial, Administrative, and Legal Advice
This part of being an entrepreneur is what people typically find to be the most difficult. However, as we all know, a company needs to be managed in terms of operations, administrative tasks, financial management, and legal services. An incubation program provides entrepreneurs with these services at a low cost and is a guiding hand for your new business needs while you focus on the vision and milestones to accomplish your goals.
You can have a great startup idea and a terrific team behind it. your company can build traction and confidence that it’s developing the best possible solution for the problems it is attempting to fix. A startup incubator creates opportunities to meet many like-minded individuals to form partnerships, bringing more attention to your company and thus establishing more confidence and potential business deals. Collaborations with industry experts, analysts, and even influencers can be very beneficial for new companies, as they will boost brand recognition and can help you scale. When you find the right kind of company or person to partner with, you can introduce your product/service to an entirely new audience, gain exposure, earn the trust of potential referral partners, and grow your own target audience.
The Best Incubators for Startups in Central Florida
Okay, now that we’ve talked all about what startup incubators are and how they’re useful for your business, let’s discuss the best ones available in Central Florida. As we already mentioned, in most cases incubators are either related to universities or government programs, but successful investors and venture capitalists also fund some private incubators. In the list below, we’ve shared some of the best startup incubators in Central Florida, regardless of who operates them. Use this list to refer to when you’re ready to partner with an incubator.
Starter Studio is a startup accelerator and incubator based in Orlando, Florida. This startup incubator is designed mainly for tech owners who need access to resources, coaches, funding, and business education in order to run their newfound companies properly. Starter Studio runs four different subprograms that vary in length:
- 2-day Accelerator Bootcamp
- 10-week Build Stage Program
- 6-week Idea Stage Program
- 90-day Seed Stage Program
Each of these programs is dedicated to helping startups grow into profitable ventures, targeting particular needs that an entrepreneur might have.
University of Central Florida Incubation Program
UCF Business Incubation Program is also based in Orlando and offers help to startups in all industries. Its main purpose is to help entrepreneurs with the growth, development, and expansion of their current business ventures. It’s a full-time program that gives its participants helpful resources, guidance, a network of partners, mentorship, and offers access to various types of funding. This startup incubation lasts 3 years, and in that period aims to support, entrepreneurs in various ways, allowing the business to launch and scale successfully.
The Goldstein Accelerator is a private incubator that was created by Joel and Bree Goldstein in 2015 after creating several successful businesses and educating themselves even further on entrepreneurship. This Florida-based program accepts five companies every six months. In that period, they provide participants access to knowledgeable experts and resources, as well as connections to angel investors and venture capitalist firms. Furthermore, the Goldstein Accelerator provides access to $100,000 in seed funding. It’s open to accepting startups from all industries, as this startup incubator doesn’t have any particular industry focus.
SBDC Central Florida
The SBDC (Small Business Development Center) is the only statewide provider of services to entrepreneurs and small business owners. It plays a particularly important role in Florida’s economic development, as its main goal is to assist owners with every issue they face when creating a successful company. That includes providing no-cost training and business research, along with coaching related to growth acceleration, international trade, government contracting, and more. The SBDC also gives entrepreneurs access to business experts, counseling, funding, and a multitude of resources. All in all, this startup incubator is a hub dedicated to supporting small business owners in Florida with the tools to make growing a successful company that much easier.
National Entrepreneur Center
The National Entrepreneur Center was founded in 2003, when the Orange County government, the University of Central Florida, and the Walt Disney Company decided to collaborate and launch a startup incubator to help growing businesses in the region. Nowadays, the National Entrepreneur Center offers incredible support to startups that include access to a shared facility, one-on-one coaching, networking opportunities, funding opportunities, and the opportunity to reach out to 14 shared business support organizations. As a whole, the center’s main focus is on helping small businesses get launched or expand. For that reason, they provide access to various free seminars, training programs, and extensive guidance from experienced mentors in the community.
Before You Leave…
We hope you learned not only what a startup incubator is and how that type of program can help accelerate your business’s growth, but also which ones are the best incubators in Central Florida. Investing your time and resources into an incubator at the start of your business will be worth it, especially if the focus and environment of the program are the right fit for you. But why stop there? We believe that a successful business owner never stops learning and focusing on the future. If you’re dedicated to that growth, you’ll want to check out our blog. We’re constantly adding more resources and articles to our site, all geared toward leadership, how to grow your ideas and dreams into a startup, and navigating the world as a small business owner. Follow us on Instagram and Tik Tok to get quick tips and helpful hints in your feed!