Raymond Smilor is probably best known in the incubator industry for his book, The New Business Incubator: Linking Talent, Technology, Capital, and Know How, written with co-author Michael D. Gill Jr. It served as the seminal textbook on business incubation for many years, brought credibility to the concept among cutting-edge thinkers in the academic world and contributed to the understanding of practitioners and would-be incubator developers. But Smilor’s contributions to the industry extend far beyond that 1986 publication profiling leading business incubators.
The publishing of Smilor’s book revealed the public’s tremendous appetite for case studies and models of business incubation. For Smilor, this burst of interest sparked opportunities to do consulting, speaking and economic development work, and he found himself traveling all over the country. Applying the principles highlighted in his book, which he wrote while executive director at the IC2 Institute at the University of Texas at Austin, he went on to develop the Austin Technology Incubator. This program would later receive an Incubator of the Year Award. He left IC2 to become executive director of the Kauffman Center for Entrepreneurial Leadership (CEL), where he continued to support business incubation.
Smilor also became and remained a friend of NBIA. During NBIA’s move to Ohio, Smilor threw his prestige behind the organization. An adept, inspiring speaker, he delivered the keynote address of the 1989 conference and assisted in obtaining financial contributors. He funded and inspired the book, Growing New Ventures, Creating New Jobs, by Mark Rice and Jana Matthews. "We felt we needed to provide useful information to people in the industry and to illuminate what people needed to understand about the industry," he says. Enthusiastic about the book from the start, he calls himself "a cheerleader for their effort," which resulted in the incubation textbook for the 1990s.
Under Smilor’s leadership, CEL also supported NBIA’s capacity-building activities. These included developing its first comprehensive long-range plan, acquisition of a management information system and the analysis of training and education needs, as well as implementation of key education and training programs. CEL also supported NBIA’s Innovation Award, which honors the industry’s most innovative program being practiced within a business incubator.
Smilor later was president of the Foundation for Enterprise Development/Beyster Institute, where he established the U.S. Russia Center for Entrepreneurship. In 2009 he was named faculty fellow in innovation and technology at the Neeley School of Business at Texas Christian University.
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