Business Incubators: welke activiteiten dragen eigenlijk bij aan waarde creatie?

Business incubators lijken tegenwoordig overal te zijn. Hun advies, netwerk en – in sommige gevallen – seed funding lijken zeer waardevol te zijn voor (hightech) startups. Maar hoe waardevol? En welke activiteiten van incubators dragen het meeste bij aan waardecreatie bij startups? Onderzoek van Golden Egg Check i.s.m. Universiteit Twente helpt business incubators om te begrijpen welke activiteiten daadwerkelijk een bijdrage leveren aan waardecreatie, en waar de focus van de business incubator zou moeten liggen.

Business incubators seem to be everywhere these days. Their advice, network and – in some cases – seed funding are believed to be valuable for (high-tech) startup companies. But how valuable? And which supporting activities are perceived to create most value within startup companies? Research of Golden Egg Check helps business incubators to understand which supporting activities actually contribute to value creation, and where the focus of the BI should be.

Last year, we did research together with the University of Twente about which supporting activities of business incubators (BIs) actually create value for startup companies. We studied three (third generation) major Dutch BIs in-depth by talking to both the incubation managers and several of the startup companies, and asked them to fill out a questionnaire afterwards.

In our study, value creation is defined as: “specific ways that an incubator program enhances the ability of its startups to survive and grow in business” (Mian, 1996). This predefines a link between the BI and the startup firm in the field of value creation. This research focused on the intervening support activities (in contrast to passive support activities such as cheap office space, fast WiFi and good coffee), because this is where value creation was most expected.

The goal of this research was to further investigate the (perceived) contribution on value creation, from both the startup firm’s perspective and the BIs perspective. We defined the value-adding services and networks at a more specific level than the generic findings published in literature so far. This enabled a two-sided view on value adding services and networks in the BI industry, forming a more solid basis for managerial implications.

Conclusions & management implications

We think that BIs should primarily focus on the services that create value for the startups. However, this is easier said than done. We formulated three conclusions and management implications based on our research.

Focus on the supporting activities that contribute to value creation

We think the two-side view comes in useful here; it is good to combine the experiences of the start-ups with the expertise of the BI programme manager to find the supporting activities that create value. Based on this (small) research, it is indicated that these services contribute to value creation and should therefore deserve the focus of the BI:

Business Incubators; do they actually create value?Be smart about the supporting activities that do not contribute to value creation

Similarly, we create an overview of the lowest ranked supporting services based on the average scores of both the startups and the programme manager. Traditional services like accountancy and legal advice score low on value creation. This does not necessarily mean that BI managers should not offer these activities, but perhaps they are not the services to focus attention and budgets on. For example, these services could be offered on a more on-demand basis (e.g. if a start-up needs specific legal advice, it can contact a lawyer in the incubator’s network), preferably at startup-friendly rates.

Create a framework to measure which supporting services contribute to value creation

Our research has been done on a small scale; 21 startups and three BIs participated. However, we feel that our framework with all supporting services and the two-sided view can serve as a starting point for BIs to measure and monitor by itself which supporting services contribute to value creation. Furthermore, this type of research can help BIs to evaluate their services among their startups. During our research, multiple startups have used the interview to criticise the programmes in which they were participating. Furthermore, we find that some activities, like market research and offline marketing, are not perceived as value creators by incubation managers, but they are perceived as such by startups. In an optimal situation, BIs can collect this feedback and improve accordingly.

Want to learn more?

Golden Egg Check offers software and services to incubators. Our software is used to support the creation of investor ready venture propositions. Our services include research about business development structures, financial ecosystems, startup progress, and market analysis for technology companies. Furthermore, we are always testing new tools for startups and incubators, so send us an email> if you’re interested in learning more.


This paper has been written by Thomas Mensink (Golden Egg Check) based on the research of Fons Mentink together with the University of Twente.

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