Tuesday, March 27, 2007

A better business model for incubators - innovation by collaboration? (orphanage vs. foster parenting)

My employer (he is an entrepreneur himself with a bootstrapped and established startup) is interested in my product, juwo (or so he says he will be, when his business stabilizes - and I dont know when).

I am applying to YCombinator. Since I have not found a cofounder - a serious disadvantage, I am wondering if I should list him as a cofounder - my boss is quite willing. He said so.

But then it struck me. What if an established company were to consider prototyping an idea. Starting a Startup for the purpose of launching a new product. They wouldnt mind giving up 6% - of the new company. What better avenue than something like YC? With all the connections, guidance and advice - much better than doing it in-house.

Is this unfair?

I am sure YC too would prefer this since the risk is greatly reduced. An established company can shoulder the gruntwork and paperwork.

Or instead of looking at is as abuse, could this be a new business model for tech-savvy VCs and gurus?

For example, companies could send their teams to Silicon Valley for 3 months to build a prototype, overseen by YCombinator or Wozniak, Godin etc. (lets call it 'Cubator'). They would even pay living expenses for their own teams and give up 6%.
This is a win-win situation for all! The gurus get to 'advise' a larger number of projects thus ensuring success, putting their eggs in many baskets.

To put it another way, incubators like YCombinator are running an orphanage; get a batch of orphans, grow them and then release them into the world. The 'Cubator' way calls for them to become foster parents. Look after them for short periods, and then release them back to their parents.

Companies will have to pick nicknames to protect confidentiality - but they will have to accept that their idea will be known among the teams - the collaborative part.

Questions: How is this different from the traditional incubators? Will the traditional startups with only founders plus an idea be the losers? Will this 'Cubator' spawn a new burst of innovation by collaboration?

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