On Friday, July 25th I was asked to join Shraysi Tandon on CCTV America to discuss the role of technology focused startup incubators and accelerators. The interview was part of a story CCTV was covering on the launch of Grand Central Tech startup accelerator in New York.
— Shraysi Tandon (@ShraysiTandon) July 25, 2014
During the six minute interview we talked about the role incubators play in the success for startups, why so few Women Who Code and tech trends. I was prepared to answer seven questions covering incubators, business school vs incubators, tech trends and more.
You can watch the full CCTV America interview “Wayne Sutton on incubators and their impact on the startup scene” below.
@CCTV_america Interview on incubators and their impact on the startup scene
Below are my full answers and how BUILDUP.vc plays a role in the startup echo system and tech trends.
1) How important are incubators and accelerators for tech startups?
The role of incubators and accelerators have been key driving force of succes for the entire technology startup ecosystem. Both can provide priceless value to various mentors, allow founders to receive expert product feedback, gain relationships with would be hard to access investors, provide funding and an opportunity to pitch to investors.
Depending on the stage of a startup or experience of the founder, incubators and accelerators can extend a timeline for a startup to reach product market fit.
Incubators and accelerators also help prepare founders for the entrepreneurship journey and can reduce the chance of failure.
2) Would it be fair to say that being a part of a tech accelerator is the vital ingredient for startup success?
No, it would not be fair to say being part of a tech accelerator is vital for success because of all the variables in a founder/startup journey. But being a part the right tech accelerator can increase the chance of success for most startups.
For example these are some of the variables that could affect the success of a startup. Stage/experience of the founders
Product / Target audience
Ability to fund raise
The size of the founders network
Knowing all the variables of success for startups is one of the reasons why at BUILDUP we’re focused on mentorship and access for early stage founders. Along with rethinking the entire accelerator model to provide the best resources and opportunity for startups to succeed.
3) Some industry insiders say to be a successful tech entrepreneur, it’s probably more valuable to join a tech incubator then go to business school – do you agree?
I’ve heard this debate over and over. If you look at the job market, debt from going to college, the “startup stories” around Mark Zuckerberg, Steve Jobs as dropouts it sounds like joining a technology incubator is the golden ticket to success and you will learn all the skills you need.
That is just not true.
One absolute in the debate of incubator vs business school is that no classroom can give you the same value as real world experience. This is where the debate is formed. The experience you gain from joining an incubator as a founder can teach you “some” the lessons of business school. That is just one of the many reasons it’s becoming more difficult to get accepted into popular incubators and accelerators such as 500 Startups and Y Combinator.
I won’t advise any entrepreneur to not go to business school in place of a technology incubator, even if its my own but I also won’t discourage an entrepreneur if he or she is passionate about pursuing their dream to launch a product and join an incubator. It’s truly a personal and financial decision; a risk decision by the entrepreneur.
4) One of your roles is advisor to an organization called ‘Women Who Code’ – why are there so few women who code?
I’m proud to be an advisor for such a powerful and needed origination as Women Who Code. The work that Alaina, Michele, Zassmin have done to create an environment for women to network and learn to not only increase the number of women developers but also provide other valuable opportunities to for women to excel in tech careers.
The reasons I believe there are so few Women Who Code are:
The American/World History of unfair treatment of women in the workplace for salaries and leadership opportunities.
Lack of successful women tech founders/role models
Sexism in tech
Data on Women In Tech
Women Make up 25% of the tech industry
11% of VC are Women
Women angels represented 19.4% of the angel market
3-5% of Women receive Venture Capital
5% Women are Tech Founders
That’s why programs such as women who code should exist and also why at BUILDUP we’re focusing on inclusion. We’re proud to have Women Who Code a partner for BUILDUP Events.
5) Is the tech startup industry a boys club?
No, I won’t sit here and say the startup industry is a boys club in 2014.
Not when I know tons of women tech founders building amazing products and solutions such as TD Lowe, Raissa Tona and Lisa Falzone.
The startup industry traditionally has primarily been dominated by men, especially in two categories, venture capital and founders.
I will say, yes that the startup industry over the years been an industry boys club. But that’s also goes back to the history of America, corporate workforce, equal access and opportunities for women and other minorities.
We need more women venture capitals and angel investors to support the growing number of women founders in tech. Along with more tech news sites to cover women founders and for everyone look past historical and personal bias, when it comes to making investment decisions.
Most importantly the tech ecosystem should have a zero tolerance for sexsim.
6) What are some the trends you’re noticing in tech startup? Last year was big on big data. Is this year more about the ‘smart stuff’ – smartphones, smart watches, smart homes? What’s the trend?
Bitcoin related startups are a trend and will continue to increase over the next couple of years as more developers learn about the potential of the technology.
The “internet of things” will continue to trend, along with more home connected devices.
Health and fitness apps will continue to be a trend especially with the release of iOS 8 and healthbook.
We’re really just getting started with Drones and it will be interesting to see what Drone.vc invest in.
Startups focused on marketplaces and communities such as ProductHunt will continue to be a niche trend.
We’ll also see more focus on simple feature apps like “yo” despite the need for more innovation.
At BUILDUP, we focus on three categories, Global Impact, Innovation and Inclusion.
7) If you were an investor, what sort of a startup would you place your bets on?
If I was an investor I would take risk on investing into teams that fits the BUILDUP.vc thesis:
Global Impact – solving real world problems for the masses.
I also would invest in digital currency / mobile commerce.
Startups that has potential to create marketplaces and resources for the growing hardware market
Example would be MadeSolid which provides materials for 3D printers.
I would invest in to Health/Tech startups and companies focused on STEM Education for underserved communities.
You can access more of BUILDUP’s research on diversity in tech here: http://buildup.vc/researchandresources/