Posts Tagged 'Incubator'

October 14, 2011

Incubators - Beyond Middle School Science Class

The first thing that comes to my mind when I hear the word "incubator" is my middle school science class. I can't remember if we did a project or just read about it, but I am positive it was a point of focus for way too long. We learn about incubators as containers in which environmental conditions may be controlled and maintained to provide a suitable place for growth. In my middle school science class, incubators helped eggs embryos grow, develop and eventually hatch. When I heard the term getting thrown around in our offices, I was pretty confused.

As it turns out, incubators programs like Tech Wildcatters and TechStars do the same thing ... only with startups (and fewer egg shells).

As Paul mentioned in Fueling Startups with TechStars, TechStars has a series on Bloomberg TV that follows a few startups in TechStars New York from the application stage through their 3 month program and Demo Day. While I understood the basic premise of the incubator programs, seeing the way they documented it was like a crash course ... So much so that when I talk about it with family and friends (and see their confused faces), I just pull up the first episode:

Just like a science class incubator that provides an egg with light, movement and an environment to mimic conditions required for growth, startup incubators give young businesses seed money, opportunities to pitch businesses to investors, and access to mentors and sponsors who are all there to provide support. In the short program term, the companies get exposure, guidance about funding and access to every other service a they could need to succeed. Piecing together that experience outside of the dedicated incubator environment would require a lot more time, effort and capital.

These incubator organizations are also referred to as startup accelerators, and they're like a golden ticket to entrepreneurial success ... And that's why it's so difficult for a startup to get accepted to participate in one of them. The value a startup brings to the table is not just in the idea; it's also in the people behind the idea.

Recently, I attended the kick-off party for the new class of Tech Wildcatters startups, and I got a chance to meet some of these passionate startup owners. Their energy is contagious. My first-hand experience immediately reinforced to my why SoftLayer is so interested in helping foster companies that could redefine and reinvent the future.

All of these comparisons between about incubators and eggs have made me pretty hungry ... If you need me, I'll be down the street getting an omelet.

-Rachel

October 13, 2011

Fueling Startups with TechStars

One of the coolest things that we get to do as a company is support the growing and thriving community of technology entrepreneurs.

Programs like TechStars provide us with the perfect opportunity to directly plug into some of the best and brightest tech talent anywhere in the world. As the number one startup accelerator in the world, TechStars receives applications from thousands of companies each year, and they only select the best of the best to be members of the program. Member companies receive perks like top-notch mentorship, free hosting, funding and the chance to present their products to venture capitalists and angel investors at the end of the program.

Several SoftLayer executives serve as mentors for TechStars, which allows us to share some of the knowledge (and some of the mistakes) we've gathered along the way. In fact, the inaugural class of the new TechStars Cloud in San Antonio will have access to SoftLayer's CSO George Karidis, our CTO Duke Skarda and me as Mentors. Not too long ago, SoftLayer was a startup, too — just a bunch of guys with a great vision, a few credit cards, and not much more. We understand how important it is to get good help and advice from others who have traveled the road before.

That's why we created the SoftLayer Startup Program. Companies in our program receive more than just advice, best practices and industry insight from us; we also provide tangible resources. Every selected company gets a free year of hosting with SoftLayer. This includes:

  • A $1,000 per month credit for dedicated hosting, cloud hosting, or any kind of hybrid hosting setup
  • Advanced infrastructure help and advice
  • A dedicated Senior Account Representative
  • Marketing support

The selection process for the SoftLayer Startup Program is pretty competitive as well, but because Tech Stars member companies had to beat the odds to get into that program, they are granted automatic admission to our program. Several of the companies who've gone through TechStars and through the SoftLayer Startup Program have become loyal customers, and you can see many of them in our Technology Partners Marketplace, where we spotlight innovative ways members of the SoftLayer community are building their businesses on our platform.

Calling All Startups!

If you're involved in a startup right now, and you're looking to get the help you deserve, email me, and I'll help you get your application submitted for the SoftLayer Startup Program. If you're focused on Cloud Infrastructure or Cloud Tools development, you have an even bigger opportunity: Priority-consideration applications for the inaugural class of TechStars Cloud are due October 21. The first class will run in San Antonio Texas from January through April of 2012. If you need just a bit more time to apply, the final application deadline is November 2. Head over to TechStars Cloud to get more information and to apply to join the latest, greatest edition of TechStars ... And you get guaranteed admission into our program where you'll enjoy all of the SoftLayer-specific benefits above!

-@PaulFord

P.S. If you want some insight into what it's like to work in a technology incubator, we recommend the TechStars series on BloombergTV that has documented the ups and downs of a few of the participants in TechStars New York.

September 30, 2011

What's Your KRED?

SoftLayer loves startups. The culture, the energy, the potential ... It's all good stuff. As you may remember from my 3 Bars 3 Questions interview and our Teens in Tech profile, one of the ways we support startups is through an incubator program that provides a phenomenal hosting credit and a lot of technology know-how to participating organizations.

In San Francisco, one of the flagship programs we're excited to be a part of is called PeopleBrowsr Labs, a startup accelerator geared toward technology companies in the area. As you sit in the PeopleBrowsr office, the brilliance in the air is almost palpable ... Young companies doing innovative things with everything they need to be successful at their disposal. One of the fringe benefits for participants in PeopleBrowsr Labs is that they're actually rubbing elbows with the PeopleBrowsr team as well ... Which is almost worth the price of admission.

In addition to the Labs sponsorship, SoftLayer is also the infrastructure provider for PeopleBrowsr and its unbelievable data mine of information. They've got every tweet that's been tweeted since early 2008, and they've been able to take that content and make sense of it in unique and interesting ways ... And that's why we stopped by for a visit this week. Last night, PeopleBrowsr officially launched Kred, a dynamic and innovative social influence measurement platform, to a LOT of fanfare (see: TechCrunch).

In the midst of the launch-day craziness, we grabbed Scott Milener, PeopleBrowsr SVP of business development, to have him explain a little about Kred, what differentiates it from the other social influence measurements and what it means for users interested in engaging more effectively with their social networks. Check it out:

With the clear success of the announcement, we want to send a shout out of congratulations to the PeopleBrowsr team. It looks like a phenomenal leap forward in understanding social engagement, and we know it's only the tip of the iceberg when it comes to what we'll see coming out of the PeopleBrowsr office in the near future.

If you feel a little jaded by the social influence measurements you've seen, Kred's transparency and community-centricity should be refreshing: http://kred.ly

-@PaulFord

June 1, 2011

Startup Series: Teens in Tech Labs

In my 3 Bars 3 Questions interview with Kevin a few weeks ago, I touched on the Community Development groups goals as we work with startups, incubators and customers in our Technology Partners Marketplace, and last week I had the chance to visit a young, up-and-coming incubator in the Bay Area: Teens in Tech Labs. Among some of their other projects, Teens in Tech is launching the Teens in Tech Incubator – a program built on the idea that entrepreneurship doesn't have a start age.

The incubator program lasts a little over eight weeks and is very hands on, in terms of mentor and adviser involvement. Each team invited to participate will be paired up with a group of mentors and advisers that will help during the process.

At the end of each week of the eight week program, the Teens in Tech staff will meet with each company to go over how their week went and what they think will help further build their business. Every other week, Teens in Tech will organize a dinner and have a guest speaker present to the teams ... And it gives the teams a chance to interact with each other outside of building their product.

At the end of the eight weeks, the teams will present their startups to a group of Venture Capitalists, influencers, members of the press and others at an event called "Demo Day."

Teens in Tech CEO Daniel Brusilovsky invited me to join him on a quick tour of their brand new office space in Mountain View, CA, and I made sure to grab my camera to capture the environment before the team and the incubator participants moved their stuff in:

We're happy to support Teens in Tech, and we're looking forward to seeing some of the amazing companies that'll come from the best and brightest entrepreneurs under 18 years old!

-@PaulFord

May 4, 2011

3 Bars | 3 Questions: Community Development

I've been on the hook for a 3 Bars | 3 Questions interview for a few weeks now, and I finally found a few minutes to chat with Kevin about what's going on in the world of SoftLayer Community Development. In the past two months, we've cranked everything up to 11 with the unveiling of our Technology Incubator Program and the Technology Partners Marketplace. Needless to say, we had a lot to talk about:

Over the past few weeks, we've posted video interviews and guest blogs from a few of our featured Technology Partner Marketplace participants, and you can expect to see more where that came from as we sign on new partners with killer applications and services that we can share with our customers. If you want to be one of those new partners, fill out our quick application, and we'll get the ball rolling!

I'm looking forward to the next installment of "3 Bars | 3 Questions" because "The Mitch" - the man, the myth, the legend - will be in the hot seat.

The Mitch

-@PaulFord

April 9, 2011

7 Keys to Startup Success

We recently announced a partnership with the Tech Wildcatters Incubator Program, a Dallas-based "microseed" fund and startup accelerator, and we couldn't be happier with the results we've seen thus far. Much of the press coverage of the sponsorship focused on the $1,000/mo of cloud, dedicated or hybrid hosting solutions we offered the program's startup companies, but the most exciting aspect of the relationship thus far has been getting to engage with the participating up-and-coming entrepreneurs.

Having been in their seats about six years ago when SoftLayer was born in a living room, the SoftLayer team is especially qualified to give insight about the struggles and successes of running a startup, and that aspect of our partnership is where we hope to provide the most value. Over the past few weeks, we've met with the current Tech Wildcatters participants and seen some of the amazing ideas they have in the works, and we're pumped to see them succeed ... By all accounts, we can't really call SoftLayer a "startup" anymore, but our investment in this community reinvigorates the startup culture we've tried to maintain as the company has grown.

Recently, I had the chance to share a few "Keys to Success" with program participants, and since those thoughts might be interesting for other startups and small business users, I thought I'd share some of the highlights here. There are no "guaranteed win" formulas or "super-secret secrets to success" in business (regardless of what an infomercial at 3am on a Tuesday morning may tell you), but these ideas may help you position your business for success:

1. Hire people smarter than you.
Your goal should be to get people on your team who can handle specific responsibilities better than you can. Just because you're running the business doesn't mean you can't learn from it, and the best people to learn from are brilliant people.

2. Hire a diverse group.
Different people think differently, and different perspectives lead to better conversations and better business decisions. Filling your organization with one kind of employee will lead to a lot of "That's the best decision ever" moments, but whether or not that "best decision ever" decision is good for anyone else is a crap shoot.

3. Founders should put skin in the game.
With all of the startup company trials and tribulations, you want everyone on your team to have a vested interest in the business's success. Clock-punchers and coasters need not apply.

4. Boot-strap the beginning.
Along the lines of the previous recommendation, if you've remortgaged your house or sold your car or maxed out your credit cards on a new business, you're going to care a lot more if it fails. By boot-strapping your initial financing, you become even more accountable for your success.

5. Operate with financial sense, operational sense and common sense.
Balance your business responsibly. If you disregard any of those "senses," your tenure as a small business owner may be relatively short-lived. When it comes to financial sense, I also recommend that you invest in professional accounting support and software to save you a ton of headache and heartache down the road when it's time to go after "real money."

6. CBNO - Challenging But Not Overwhelming
You can always do something more for the business. You and your team should be maximizing your efforts to grow the business but not at the expense of burning out. If you've got "skin in the game," your threshold for what is overwhelming may increase, but you have to understand the need for balance.

7. Have fun and make money.
In that order. If you're not having fun, it doesn't matter how much money you make. Startups are run by passionate people, and the second you lose that passion, you lose a significant piece of what makes your business or idea great.

I touched on about a dozen more points when it comes to how to orient your business to your customers, but I'll save that bit for later.

CBNO

-@lavosby

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