Picking The Right Incubator And Making The Most Of It

By Parry Bedi and Sami Kaipa, Wharton MBAs 2012 and Co-founders of SocialGlimpz 

The idea for SocialGlimpz was born when we worked on the go-to-market strategy for a Bay Area startup as part of our market research course at Wharton. There we discovered significant hurdles in the qualitative data gathering process – specifically, how hard and expensive it is to capture accurate, useful market insights. Thus we decided to build a solution that both lowers the cost (effort) on respondents and provides a greater degree of validation of their responses and does so relatively inexpensively, thus changing the way products are made and services delivered.  While Executive MBA students at Wharton San Francisco, we joined the Venture Initiation Program (VIP) and won a Snider Seed Award. After graduation, we continued working on SocialGlimpz full-time.

Late last year we decided to join an accelerator.  A great accelerator can get your company off on the right foot. They help you find focus, build key relationships, and perhaps most importantly, support your capital raising efforts. We built a list of criteria, such as strength of mentors, reputation, past successes, and corporate access. After looking through a number of incubators around the country, we decided to apply to Tech Wildcatters (a Forbes top ten accelerator) out of Dallas. Perhaps the single most important reason for us was the fact that TWC focuses exclusively on B2B and B2B2C companies and the fact that the Dallas Fort Worth metro area is home to over 10,000 corporations, giving it the largest concentration of corporate headquarters in the United States. Many of these companies can be potential customers for SocialGlimpz. Thus, we packed our bags and moved to Dallas for the duration of the program.

The mentors of the program are its biggest asset. We built relationships with dozens of experienced entrepreneurs, investors and business leaders that will last well after the program ends. They helped us cultivate and perfect our pitch, they advised us on short and long-term business development strategies, and assisted with marketing. Most importantly they were our advocates when it came to finding financiers and corporate development partners. The mentor group has an amazing rolodex of individuals in key positions that have proven to really accelerate our growth. As an example, one of the mentors, Ryan Scripps, put us in touch with executives at the Richard’s Group, one of the largest advertising and marketing agencies in the nation. We also picked up an investor and advisor during the program named David Humphrey, the ex-CEO of Massage Envy, who has been a great asset to us in navigating the complex world of B2B sales.

A necessary ability for an entrepreneur, especially in the early stages when the ambiguity and risks are high, is being able to convince others to believe in you, be it your customers, investors or employees. For some, this comes naturally and for many, it’s learned behavior. The Tech Wildcatters program gave us the tools to be effective promoters of our own cause. For example, when we needed to prepare material for our next sales meeting, Tech Wildcatters enabled us to get the support of an advisor who has spent years doing this for startups just like ours. Building a successful company is not only about knowing what to do, but also knowing what not to do. Having people around who have done it before helped us avoid pitfalls and focus on the highest value activities.

When we first joined the accelerator, we made a few mistakes, but were able to quickly recover to get the most out of the program. Here is our advice on ensuring you get everything you can out of whatever entrepreneurial program you are in:

  1. The onus is on you to engage with the members of the incubator eco-system. You can’t expect the program managers to do all of the work for you. Take it upon yourself to proactively get a list of mentors, corporate partners and investors who are active with the program. Do your research on these individuals and reach out to the ones that can assist your company, and do it as soon as the program starts. Sometimes it might take the full 12 weeks, or longer, to build the needed relationship with these folks to establish a fruitful partnership.
  2. In general, asking rarely hurts. Whether it’s asking someone to be an investor, or asking a company to pilot our offering, we found it more often beneficial to just go ahead and do it. In our specific case, we built relationships with many potential investors, who, as we learned after the fact, were seriously interested in SocialGlimpz, but ultimately told us that since we never asked, they had tied up their capital in other areas. Don’t be afraid to ask!
Incubator Infographic
Here is an infographic showing where we were and where we ended up after the program.

 

Bios:

Parry BediCEO and CTO of SocialGlimpz, Parry Bedi has an MS in Computer Systems Engineering from Technical University of Denmark and an MBA (Honors) in Marketing from the Wharton School. While in business school, he also co-founded EMR Xpress, a provider of emergency room management software. Previously, Parry worked at Microsoft, where he built enterprise software applications, programming languages and development environments. He was also selected for Microsoft’s high potential talent program – Technical Leadership Select.

 

Sami KaipaCOO of SocialGlimpz, Sami Kaipa has a Bachelor’s in Computer Science from Stanford and an MBA from the Wharton School. He possesses expertise in enterprise software across various functional roles including product development, sales and consulting. He was one of the early employees at CrossWorlds (acquired by IBM) and has received 2 patents in the areas of data mapping. Sami was the youngest employee in IBM’s history to be promoted to a Sr. Manager in the Software Services group.