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The challenges of agency incubators

August 25, 2011

There’s a strong argument for agencies to move into the incubation game; the potential financial upside is obviously significant and the all kinds of side benefits that developing new technologies can bring. These positives are discussed in a recent post on Agency Collaboration Blog.

However, there are some significant challenges.

1. There’s an abundance of incubators- growing every day- so what makes an agency incubator attractive to a young start-ups? Maybe the stronger agency brands might have an advantage here.

2. The best incubators require deep management and attention. It’s not just a question of giving space to a start-up. To help fledglings grow they need nurturing, coaching and educating. I am not agencies are especially well equipped to deliver this- they are generally obsessed with the short-term and reacting to client problems. In fact, the aren’t particularly good at training their own employees.

While on paper it looks like a smart thing to do- agencies really need to plan for this and make sure they have all the pieces in places to ensure the incubator doesn’t just become a vanity project which 12 months in has delivered limited results.

A possible way forward might be approach existing incubators about the possibility of a joint venture which incubates start-ups focused more on marketing innovation. 

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