In the process of realizing a project or business idea, entrepreneurs face numerous problems in different subjects such as legal, economic, technological, etc. It is very difficult for entrepreneurs to cope with these problems alone and to establish and successfully maintain their companies. However, successful entrepreneurs, who find solutions to important problems in our lives are also contributing to the national economy. Recognizing this important economic and social contribution, public and private organizations have started to solve the problems of entrepreneurs in different processes and support entrepreneurs in many ways by establishing pre-incubation centers, incubation centers and acceleration programs. The main feature that distinguishes pre-incubation centers, incubation centers and acceleration programs from each other is that they are suitable for entrepreneurs in different processes.
Pre-incubation is the process that usually involves a technology-focused business idea or project, where startups that have started working alone or with a team but have not been incorporated to make this idea come true. Entrepreneurs in the pre-incubation process need specific training, mentoring and consultancy services to understand whether their ideas are viable, commercializable, scalable, etc. Pre-incubation centers provide these opportunities to early-stage entrepreneurs for an average of six months to a year. In addition to these, the physical facilities needed by entrepreneurs such as open offices and common working areas are provided to entrepreneurs by pre-incubation centers. The duration of these opportunities provided to entrepreneurs also varies according to which sector the entrepreneurs will operate in. While software-focused startups are expected to complete this phase in an average of six months, this period may be longer for startups operating in the health vertical.
Entrepreneurs set up an accurate and applicable business plan by clarifying their ideas with the support they receive in pre-incubation centers. At this stage, the number of entrepreneurs who change their business idea and turn to a more feasible business idea by taking advantage of the knowledge and experience of mentors and consultants is quite high. In the pre-incubation phase, the important thing is to establish a team that can do the job and to makes the right business plan that will save money. At the end of the pre-incubation, entrepreneurs are ready to go into company with a correct and detailed business plan and implement their plans. After that, they continue their work with the incubation process. Since the pre-incubation process is an early stage, entrepreneurs often receive financial support from government agencies such as TÜBİTAK and KOSGEB. Venture capital funds and angel investors rarely invest at this stage. The ITU Çekirdek and ANAÇ pre-incubation centers are examples of pre-incubation centers that successfully carry out the pre-incubation phase in our country.
At the end of the pre-incubation period, entrepreneurs who complete the business plan and are ready for incorporation, start the incubation phase. During the incubation period, entrepreneurs continue to need physical facilities and training, consultancy and mentoring services, similar to the pre-incubation phases. These needs of entrepreneurs are met while in the incubation center. The length of the incubation period varies between 1-3 years depending on the sector of the enterprise. Startups that take longer to obtain certificates and patents in sectors such as health, food, etc. spend longer incubation periods than software companies.
Entrepreneurs set up their companies at the incubation stage and produce their minimum viable product. At this stage, the technical support that entrepreneurs need, especially when developing products, are provided by incubation centers. After the product is developed, the commercialization of the product, which is one of the most difficult stages of the enterprise process and management, begins. The main reason why this stage is difficult is that commercialization efforts are costly. Due to the costs incurred, the financing needs of companies increase and they need to find new supports. This process can work differently depending on the sector the entrepreneurs are in or the product they develop. For example, licenses and certificates create serious costs for entrepreneurs in the health field.
It is easier for startups to receive investments from angel investors and venture capital funds during the incubation phase compared to the pre-incubation process. Incubation centers support companies in their investment search processes by organizing meet-ups, demoday events, so that their companies are visible and find investments.
In our country, there are many incubation centers supported by the state or private sector and the number of these centers is increasing day by day. ODTÜ ATOM incubation center, Boğaziçi HayalEt incubation center and TEB enterprise house can be considered as good examples for incubation centers.
Entrepreneurs who stand out with their business plans and the capabilities of their teams and who have high awareness of the functioning of the entrepreneurship ecosystem can skip the pre-incubation stage and settle directly in the incubation center.
Acceleration is the process in which the problems of companies that have created their products, have started commercialization studies but have difficulties in gaining market share and globalization and these problems can be solved with the help of acceleration programs during this phase. The concept of acceleration can be considered as a new model for the entrepreneurship world. The first acceleration program in the world was Y Combinator, which was established in 2005 and is still working. It is not correct to describe it as a continuation of the incubation phases because it is a new model and constantly renews itself according to the needs of entrepreneurs. Acceleration programs are quite different from pre-incubation and incubation processes. Institutions that organize the program usually restrict the duration of the program to 6-12 months and want all companies to start the program at the same time. Thus, all companies participate in the same trainings and events at the same time and appear before investors at the same time. This situation ensures that competition and interaction between companies is high.
Since the products of the companies participating in the accelerator programs are ready and commercialization studies have started, these companies usually start to earn income. In addition, since it is possible to compare the sales, turnover, profit, etc. expectations of the company with the realized values at this stage, these companies attract the attention of venture capital funds and angel investors. Private companies and funds not only invest in accelerator companies, but also often organize acceleration programs. Bayer and Türkiye İş Bankası acceleration program (WorkUp) are examples of these companies.
To sum up, Entrepreneurs differ from hierarchically structured private institutions that make slow decisions with their innovative business ideas, fast and flexible structures. Because of these features, they are in an important position both economically and socially. Therefore, it is very important that the entrepreneurs are supported by the state and the private sector according to the stage they are in, namely, the business plans, the status of the product they have developed, their commercialization status, etc. When startups get the necessary support, it can be a very profitable investment for their investors. Because of these, the budgets and numbers of both the entrepreneurship ecosystem and pre-incubation, incubation centers and acceleration programs will continue to increase, thus their importance in the economy will increase even more.