banks incubators

Startup Incubators Launched By Banks: The Ups and Downs

Linkilaw Startup Advice & Tips

Banks Incubators:


I once asked an entrepreneur friend, Heather, what superpower she’d choose if she could pick anything. Her response, “To have 26 hours in a day, so I could get these grants done.” I laughed immediately. Wouldn’t you just ask for the power to do them instantly? “Nah,” she said, “I just need a couple more hours – or an extra set of hands.”

That silly exchange taught me a lot about the entrepreneurial spirit. Creative business owners aren’t looking for shortcuts, they’re just looking for ways they can work more efficiently. And, with a never-ending pile of “must do’s” finding those extra hours (or extra hands) might as well be a superpower.

Why Are UK Banks So Interested?

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Heather’s dilemma was all about the money – in the unrelenting headache of finding more of it. Whether you’ve already been on the hunt for small business loans (or you’ve been meaning to) there are new options in the banking world you may want to consider first.

What if I told you banks could offer more than just money? No, they can’t give you extra hours in a day, but what if they could build, train, test, fund, grow and support you? Interested?

Well, the good news is that banks are launching startup incubators that can drastically transform new business models. The bad news? We’re not exactly sure why banks are so eager to help. Are they friends or frenemies? Good question, so we’ll go into that in a bit.

The Upside of Banks Incubators

Most UK startup bank programmes are designed to streamline those parts of business that entrepreneurs find so challenging (and often cause them to fail). Things like time management, marketing research and financial planning aren’t exactly the most enjoyable tasks – but they can dictate your success or your downfall. The best banks incubators will foster your overall growth – they’ll be your mentor and also have your back like a right-hand assistant.

Here are 5 reasons why banks incubators make sense when you’re launching that new business:

1.They’ve thought of everything

HR needs? Check. Marketing strategy? Check. Business startup grants? Check. As an entrepreneur under a bank’s trusted wing, you’ll get unrivalled business development, training and support for everything from leadership to marketing.

For example, financial powerhouse The FinTech Innovation Lab offers an accelerator programme that matches young companies with senior IT executives from 15 of the world’s leading banks. The result? An impressive checklist of benefits, which include:

  • Insider knowledge
  • Workshops and panel discussions
  • Free workspace in London’s financial district
  • Public relations opportunities
  • Strategy development
  • And more!

2. They don’t cut corners

In fact, they ‘over deliver.’ These bank programmes aren’t just weekend boot camps or motivational seminars that last a few days. They’re mentorships that last between 12 weeks and 3 years – from startup to success (and all the newbie bumps in between).

The bottom line is this: if you’ve got a commitment phobia or you’re only half-hearted in your ideas or passion, don’t bother applying! These classes are for those who are ready to roll up their sleeves and get to work.

3. They’ve got the Big Bucks

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What’s the best part about siding with a bank? It’s a bank!

In the early stage of business, it would be impossible to rank your needs and not have m-o-n-e-y sitting high on that list. In fact, it’s everything because many companies fail in the first two years when they don’t factor in enough capital.

How wonderful to be the protégé of a bank – because, you know, money. And, not only do these banks have it, they’re partnered with capitalists and seed investors who are ready to give it away to the worthy.

4. They give you a TEST kitchen

Like a chef who gets to try out recipes on a dining room full of hungry mates, you’ll get to test your ideas and business model on relevant, real-life audiences. The piece of mind that comes with these foolproof test-markets is worth the application.

Imagine being able to test your prototype on real people before taking it to market? How invaluable would it be to utilise your strengths and tweak your weaknesses before it’s GO TIME, before it’s all on the line, before…well, you get the point. This advantage alone could save you a ton of money.

5. The networking is GREAT

The benefits these banks offer might be a lot less valuable if not for the introduction to ‘people they know.’ Whether it’s tech executives or test markets – the connections these banks can arrange is priceless to new owners. Besides, ‘it’s not what you know, it’s who you know,’ right?

If each of those people you’re introduced to tells you about another relevant person and then you meet one of their associates…you’re off to the races. The networking possibilities are infinite – because we’re talking worldwide networking here.

The Downside of Banks Incubators?

Well, there isn’t much of a downside to be honest.

Banks have lost their positioning when it comes to new businesses. Not everyone is pounding down the doors to come to them for loans anymore. As a result, the banks have joined with startup incubators (and occasionally formed their own) in a genuine effort to become a part of this new success.

With no shortage of angel investors and seed funds available, the banking industry has had to provide more types of value than just money. If anything, you might be more concerned that bank involvement is going to prejudice some of what they teach you. Of course they will want your business, and you might want to look closely at the fine print to see how much commitment you’re in for.

On the other hand, there are definitely a few general limitations to banks incubators, whether they are provided by banks or other entrepreneurial groups:

1. Not for the ‘we’re already on our way’

Incubator programs are best for the new or nearly new, who come with an open mind and are ready to learn. Entrepreneurs and businesses beyond their initial growth stage are basically be less eligible for admission unless they are headed toward momentous growth.

Typically, startups which have tried, failed, and are looking for second chances are not going to be an incubator’s first draft choice. Of course, if you’re not sure where you fall, it never hurts to apply.

2. The spaces are limited

The competition is very fierce. With the recent surge of entrepreneurial hubs around the UK, some may think their chances of being accepted into an incubator programme is a sure thing, but it’s not. In fact, with the increased awareness, comes more applications and ramped up interest. With some programmes even willing to relocate the right team – applicants have stiff competition from even outside the UK.

3. One final word: INSTINCT

As an entrepreneur, you’re built of tougher stuff than the average person and chances are that you recognise a red flag when you see it. Trust your instincts.

When evaluating your options – whether it be incubators, business loans, startup grants or everyday business decisions – be willing to listen to others, but capable of recognizing what works for you and your business.