Hatching the Upstate’s startup future

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Incubator-bred businesses more likely to thrive, stay in community

GregoryPickett

Business incubators support entrepreneurial ventures during the critical startup phase when they are at their highest risk for failure. According to Bloomberg, an astonishing 80 percent of new startups fail within their first 18 months. Incubators and accelerators increase the chance of success exponentially. The National Business Incubation Association reports 87 percent of companies developed through incubators are still in business five years after finishing the program.

Greenville has embraced the incubator model for launching new business, and with good reason. Startups are great for their communities because they create jobs and spur economic development, and incubators are proven to increase the number of successful startups. 84 percent of incubator-fostered companies stay in their communities, which promotes long-term job growth and increases return to investors. Greenville is fortunate in that it has many great spaces where young entrepreneurs can nurture their fledgling business ideas.

During my tenure as director of the Clemson MBA program, I have closely followed the development of – and partnered to varying extents with – individuals from the NEXT Innovation Center, Iron Yard and its subsidiary CoWork. These groups have slightly different approaches and missions, but all do a great job of finding innovative ways to support startup companies – particularly those in the tech sector – with office space, networking opportunities, investor support and mentorship. In addition, the Iron Yard Academy offers intensive three-month courses in coding, Web design and mobile engineering which help attract young creative professionals to the Greenville area.

When Clemson created its MBA in Entrepreneurship & Innovation concentration in 2011, one of our main goals was to find a way to continue to support our students in launching their businesses after graduation. Our move to Greenville ONE in January 2014 provided the necessary space to open our incubator. Students apply to receive free office space and tech support for up to a year after they graduate. We wanted to provide more than just the cost-saving benefit of not having to rent an office, so we also provide ongoing educational opportunities, business advising and support, exclusive access to VCs and investors through the Tiger Angel Network and ongoing PR and marketing support for our residents.

Currently we have several Clemson graduate startups using the space, including a social media app developer, an international import/export venture, a not-for-profit venture focused on teaching K-12 students about IT, and a consulting firm that helps product manufacturers maximize the effectiveness of their packaging design to attract customers. It’s one of the more bustling spaces in our facility and it’s exciting to watch these companies grow right before your eyes. Recently we asked for feedback from the first group of residents and were excited to see the initiative is having the impact we intended.

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