I had been fine-tuning the incubator concept during my entire forty-five year career. I knew that farm incubators take eggs and turn them into chickens. I looked for an analogy between start-up incubators and chicken incubators. From the physical perspective, both types of incubators are basically structures with controlled lighting, temperature, and humidity; to successfully use the farm incubators, the main ingredient one needs are eggs. I realized that these “eggs,” or their equivalent in the start-up environment, were missing from the academic world’s vision of the start-up incubation process.
The more I thought about this analogy, I realized just how apt it was. Start-up companies burn through a lot of their initial investors’ capital just building their “barn.” They rent a larger-than-necessary space, initially hire too many people, and attempt to analyze and understand their target market. All too soon, both time and money run out. In my opinion, the majority of companies that start in the incubator environment do not possess a sufficient “egg” to incubate in order to make a “chicken” (a successful company). In fact, the “egg” itself should be a prerequisite to a start-up incubation process. I concluded that a start-up company entering an incubator needs to own a viable “egg.” As a result, a Generator of good “eggs” is necessary so that only viable “eggs” ready to be hatched will be transferred to a start-up that enters into the incubation process.
The secret ingredient in the analogy, of course, is the “egg.” There are three important variables that impact and define the “egg:” (1) the intellectual property itself; (2) the knowledge of large potential markets for the resultant product; and (3) the proofs of concept that ensure that the technology works. The term “egg” was chosen because it represents a concept–technology that has yet to be incubated to reach its identity and potential, yet it has all the necessary “genetic material” to succeed.
A more complete version explaining the concepts and ideas behind ATG is available in “My Life on the Mysterious Island of Nanotechnology” by Zvi Yaniv, available on Amazon.