I totally agree with Henry that the start-up value creation sweet spot lies somewhere between VC firm and operating company. The trick though is in building a model that does not denigrate any one part of the continuum required to produce stellar results. Scale is the big issue.
I’ve had a fair bit of time to play with the model over the past decade – as an intrapreneur within a large publishing house, as CEO of a “distributed” incubator (we leveraged our partners facilities and worked with a portfolio spread across Australia), and as an executive at what is arguably the southern hemisphere’s biggest incubator (an ICT research centre of excellence with 600 staff in 5 labs).
My take is that there is no perfect model — one can crystallize a set of processes (at the ICT CoE we had a detailed set of procedures, a multi-stage gating process, internal fund, Entrepreneur in Residence Program and more committees than you could shake a stick at) – but if you do not allow the magic to happen, if you do no create a playground for mavericks then you will starve your pipeline.
I recall having a number of discussions with Evan Williams at Obvious about creating a product factory. It seems that they’ve got their hands full with an initial king hit, Twitter. And that is another key factor with the model — there is always the temptation to drop everything and pile into what looks like a winner.
I really like the approach Betaworks is taking though. Instead of providing the commoditized solutions traditionally associated with incubators (accounting, hr, legal, blah) they focus on a set of core capabilities – software / IP, knowledge, data, standards, analytics, leadership, tools.
By providing the playground for experimentation, they are able to enable magic. Time will tell how well they scale and remain focused.
[via Silicon Alley Insider]