Suggested Metrics

Here it is: the heart of the matter. Following are the ten basic metrics NBIA suggests you track. NBIA suggests that all incubators collect these basic data points on an annual basis for all clients, and annually for graduates for at least five years after they leave the program.

As described in “The Significance of Baseline Data," it’s important to set a baseline for all of these data points for each client when it begins a relationship with the incubator, either as an in-house or affiliate, so that you can track growth in employment, sales, etc., over time. You should request this data from clients for the first time when you accept them into the program.

Number of current clients
The number of companies your incubator currently serves.
Total number of graduates since program inception
Quantifying the number and performance of graduates is essential to demonstrating program success.
Number of graduate firms still in business or that have been merged or acquired
Graduate firms that remain in operation demonstrate your program’s ability to produce successful companies that survive. Additionally, mergers and acquisitions are successful business outcomes; therefore, graduate firms that have executed these exit strategies should be tracked and included in your tallies of successful graduates.
Number of people currently employed full-time (at least 32 hours) by client and graduate firms
To make data collection easier, don’t ask entrepreneurs for complicated information like average full-time employment, full-time equivalents, etc. If you collect current employment figures from both clients and graduates on a regular basis you will be able to show growth over time.
Number of people currently employed part-time (>32 hours) by client and graduate firms
Depending on the type of company, there may be significant part-time employment.
Current monthly salaries and wages paid by client and graduate firms
If you ask for current monthly salaries and wages (as opposed to annual numbers) you will be able to calculate current average wages using the current employment information you’ve collected. This information also will be easier to collect from your clients and graduates than annual figures.
Gross revenues for the most recent full year for client and graduate firms
For the company’s last full year, what is the total (gross) revenue amount shown on its income statement?
Dollar amount of debt capital raised in most recent full year by client and graduate firms (bank loans, loans from family and friends, revolving loan funds, or other loan sources)
How much money was borrowed in the last full year?
Dollar amount of equity capital raised in most recent full year by client and graduate firms (include investments from angel investors, venture capitalists, seed funds, or other equity capital sources)
Certain stakeholders are keenly interested in the level of investment your clients and graduates attract. Additionally, touting these investments can help you recruit clients.
Dollar amount of grant funds raised in most recent full year by client and graduate firms (SBIR, state grants, etc.)
Again, many stakeholders are interested in the ability of your clients and graduates to attract grant funds. Touting their success in attracting grant funding also can help you recruit clients.

NBIA recommends these ten basic metrics because they cover the most-requested program outcome areas and because they will meet the requirements of many incubator funding sources; be sure to ask your sponsors if there are additional data points they’d like you to collect.

To make collecting these data points as easy as possible, NBIA has created basic surveys with questions that will gather this information, as well as an Excel template that you can use to collect and aggregate the data. Click here to download these templates. In the future NBIA will use these templates as the basis for industry-wide surveys about incubator impacts; putting them into practice at your program will make it easier to respond to these surveys.

If your program focuses on a particular type of client, you may choose to track additional measures. For example, technology incubators often track the number of technologies commercialized by clients and graduates. What you choose to add on to your base data collection effort will depend on your program’s mission, location, and other factors.

Following are some examples of data points different types of incubation programs might elect to collect.

All Incubators
  • Number of incubator graduates remaining in the incubator service area
  • Number of firms that either failed in the incubator or that did not meet graduation criteria
  • Square footage of commercial space leased or owned by incubator graduates in the community
Special-Focus Incubators
  • Number of women employed by clients and graduates
  • Number of minorities employed by clients and graduates
  • Number of low-income residents employed by clients and graduates
  • Value of local goods and services purchased in the community by incubator clients and graduates
Technology or University-Affiliated Incubators
  • Number of technologies commercialized into new products or services by client and graduate firms
  • Number of student, faculty, and staff-initiated businesses
  • Number of students employed by incubator clients and graduates
  • Number of students securing internships at client and graduate firms
  • Number of university graduates permanently employed in client and graduate firms
  • Royalty and licensing revenues gained by sponsor from client and graduate firms
  • Equity investment returns gained by sponsor from client and graduate firms