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This story looks at four troubled incubation programs in the United States, three of which continue to operate and one of which is closing. Their managers describe what went wrong, what they did (or wish they had done) to make it right, and how industry best practices could have helped.

When good incubators go bad: Classic incubation mistakes – and how to correct them

by Corinne Colbert

December 2007

One of the strengths of the incubation industry is its practitioners’ willingness to share their experiences with colleagues. From the NBIA listserv to conference presentations, the question is always the same: “How did you do it?”

But there also are lessons to be learned from the not-so-successful. The sad fact is, some incubation programs struggle every year. Funding falls through, economies change, stakeholder backing falters. And while some prevail over these challenges, others do not survive.

For this story, NBIA looked at four troubled incubation programs in the United States. Three overcame their problems and continue to operate; one is in the process of closing. In every case, however, the root of the problem was a failure to follow best practices. We asked their managers what went wrong and what they did – or wish they had done – to make it right.

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This article also is available as a PDF Quick Reference document through the NBIA Bookstore.

Keywords: best practices, board of directors, facility management, facility selection/construction/renovation, fee structuring, financial management -- incubator, incubator failure, market research -- incubator, self-sufficiency, self-sustainability

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