The U.S.-based International Business Innovation Association estimates that there are about 7,000 incubators worldwide, some with better track records than others, but all seemingly working towards a common goal: spread innovation like wildfire. Early in the year, I spoke with David Mandelbrot, CEO of IndieGogo, about startup funding, support, and how our approach to innovation is shifting and have been on the search for accelerators that flip the odds.
Opening the Innovation Gates
Plug and Play is recognized as the most active venture capital firm in the United States. With over 270 global investments every year, their mission, "To make innovation open to anyone, anywhere," seems viable if they keep up with those kind of numbers. And with so many incubators around the world, I was curious... what makes Plug and Play unique? What exactly are they doing that is allowing this level of growth to take place? After working with startups for over twelve years, Plug and Play has refined matching up with corporations based to create "mutually beneficial partnerships" that embody spirit of open innovation.
Modern Community As the Backbone
In an absolute change of pace, Plug and Play is focusing a large amount of their attention on partnerships, connections, and building an undeniably powerful network designed to ensure the success of their startups at every stage of growth. This mission of making innovation open to anyone, while collaborating and involving corporations; and helping to direct innovation into projects and products of high market, and business value, is inadvertently counteracting the effect of gatekeepers.
This model supports what I refer to as intentional inclusion, creating space for diversity amid platforms where this was previously unsupported. In fact, I've dubbed this the year of intentional inclusion, and businesses, like Plug and Play, are proving me right. They might be living the dream in Silicon Valley, but they are creating a global movement. Currently boasting 26-locations around the world, they all have strategic partnerships launching startups into supported roles in their dedicated markets.
My conversation with Alex Mojtahedi, Managing Director at Plug and Play, jumped from innovation, to playing chess with your eyes closed- a skill Mojtahedi possesses, and even to discussing Colin Farrell. The 4th Annual City Summit & Gala, a personal favorite, will take over the Burbank Convention Center February 21st-24th, an event Plug and Play sponsors due to aligning missions. This year, Golden Globe Award winning actor Colin Farrell will be there to accept an inspiration award. Mojtahedi pointed out that much of what City Summit's Founder, Ryan Long, aims to do for social good non-profit acceleration is aligned with Plug and Play's long term goals for their startups.
As if that wasn't already exciting enough, it seems Colin Farrell is also aligned with Plug and Play's mission possible, and equally impressed with the direction of City Summit. In Farrell's own words, "I'm grateful to organizations like the City Summit for highlighting professionals and providing awareness and support to entrepreneurs that want to help solve today's challenges."
Market Proof Is Undeniable
Some of the messaging I predict we will hear at the City Summit this year, as well as continue to hear from Mojtahedi and Plug and Play is this: Incubators often fail to get true market proof, and we see this in the end numbers of case studies showing failure after failure, regardless of funding. In this venture capital ecosystem, it's common for people to move on, for businesses to be in constant flux, and for change to happen more rapidly than we experience in most other circumstances. Fifty-six percent of success can come from having the right product market fit, and as long as our efforts reflect that truth, there's nowhere we can't go.