An entrepreneur’s perspective on the need for startup incubators

“Entrepreneurship is a lonely endeavour”. While those on this path for more than 5 years would agree with this, all those who have chosen it recently would not. There is a reason behind this disagreement. I started my entrepreneurial journey 11 years back, setting up a Virtual Assistant Service company called Infinity Business Solutions, with almost no outside support. And then, when I took my next leap of faith, 3 years ago with my publishing start-up, Outliers Publishing, I had all the support I needed. Having set up & run the first company all by myself, my second venture was a cakewalk. Back then, there were a limited number of people, groups and networks where a person could discuss ideas or brainstorm solutions to their problems. But today, start-ups are thriving and flourishing, and you will seldom find an entrepreneur complaining about feeling lonely. And you may wonder, what changed? 

The past couple of years have seen an unprecedented rise in the number of startup incubators, with India having the third-largest startup ecosystem in the world, housing over 500+ incubators. These incubators have been instrumental in the snowballing of more and more successful startups, mostly owing to the invaluable mentorship, networking and funding aids that a startup doesn’t otherwise have access to, and the countless other subtleties that startup founders, entrepreneurs, and innovators find themselves in, being around other risk-takers.

A startup constantly needs to explore opportunities and expand its horizons and that cannot happen without an ecosystem to facilitate the same. It needs a safety net to fall back on while experimenting with their ideas and working on their innovations and creations. Being a part of a startup ecosystem enabled me to take chance after chance, helping my startup evolve in terms of its business model and pivoting it to make sure my venture became more scalable and profitable, which it did! Outliers Publishing hit its 1st million last year and hasn’t stopped growing ever since. We’ve created about 15 jobs, published 8 National and International Bestsellers, got featured at the Frankfurt Book Fair (the Mecca for authors and publishers) and sold the rights for 5 books in a series for one of our Australia-based authors – all in less than two years, and it was all made possible by every benefit and opportunity we wouldn’t have had, had we been on our own.

“This is stupid… It will never work”. This is the one most common feedback that all of the world’s greatest innovations start with. As an entrepreneur, you need a place where your ideas are heard, not ridiculed. A place that gives you a community to discuss, brainstorm, a place that motivates you to keep hustling. But these are all emotional benefits, which are great, but not enough to help the start-up warrior navigate through her journey.

Startup incubators provide assistance that ranges from helping incubatees create a sustainable, scalable & profitable business model to providing value-added support services and infrastructural support like a co-working space for their daily operations, which most startups cannot afford in their early days. Another benefit of sharing a co-working space with other startups is also that one gets to be around other startup founders that foster the never-say-die attitude in everyone around them. It creates an atmosphere of empowerment, a network of mentors, helps forge partnerships and networks in academia, industry, funding sources, existing incubators and others for the start-ups to leverage. They’re working twice as hard during the pandemic, availing free online webinars, workshops and courses that help startups hone their hard and soft skills.

The life of an entrepreneur isn’t for everyone. It’s a road not everyone is bold enough to explore, for all its perils that consist of countless risks, the loneliness of leadership, unpredictable schedules, and unstable income. But in a startup ecosystem, you don’t go down that road alone. Your fear of failure wanes out, and you begin to see the bigger picture even more clearly. Flying solo gets things done too, but not as well as working amid an environment with other like-minded people.

“When the snows fall and the white winds blow, the lone wolf dies but the pack survives.” – George R.R. Martin ( A Game of Thrones) 

Bhavini Mehta is the founder & CEO of Outliers Publishing Co., a full service, new age publishing house providing publishing services to aspiring and established authors worldwide, is based in Ahmedabad and is incubated at GUSEC.