Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute’s business incubation program was founded in 1980, making it one of the first university-based incubators in the country. In 2010, the Institute made an unpopular, but visionary and important decision to close its “bricks and mortar” incubator and move to a “distributed model” incubation program called Emerging Ventures Ecosystem or, EVE. Before this landmark decision, many client companies were perceived to be merely “taking up space” in Rensselaer facilities. The formal process of business incubation was almost non-existent and client companies relied primarily on ad hoc and informal interactions with key resources and support organizations on and off campus.
Despite the mixed results of these informal and unstructured interactions organized around a physical facility, there have been many notable success stories. In it’s 30 years of operation, the physical incubator supported 265 companies, 80% of which still existed five years after graduating from the incubator. Some companies have become prominent successes, such as MapInfo, acquired by Pitney Bowes in 2007 for $408 million; Vicarious Visions , developers of the Guitar Hero and Tony Hawk Skylanders game franchises, acquired by Activision in 2005 returning 20 times the investors’ original investment; and Ecovative Designs, makers of environmentally sustainable packaging and insulation materials.
In late 2012, the Institute developed and launched its next generation business incubation program as EVE 2.0. This new approach to business incubation does not rely on proximity of clients in physical spaces, but strategically integrates elements of incubation and acceleration into a structured and proactive approach to systematic venture development. The Venture Development Framework captures all of the critical elements of this process and organizes them around a seven-stage process that is easy to follow by clients, advisers and other program stakeholders.
It should be noted that the Framework is tool that was designed to be used independently by entrepreneurs, but in its application, it is also quite useful as a management and tracking tool for business incubation professionals and entrepreneurship educators. By simply changing the performance metrics, business incubation professionals and advisers can keep up with the progress of their clients while also tracking the overall performance of their programs.
In the tradition of Open Source and community engagement, Rensselaer is making the Venture Development Framework available for use by entrepreneurs, advisers, educators and business incubation professionals at no cost. It is our hope that we can all work together to develop and refine best practices that track the growing trends and opportunities of entrepreneurship.
To receive an editable electronic copy that you can customize for your specific program or situation, just click on the red “Get the Framework” button above. Working together, we really can Change the World!