Q. What key attributes do you look for in an entrepreneur applying to an incubator?
A. We look for the obvious characteristics that are necessary for start-up success: Entrepreneurs need to have a creative, strong passion to succeed; an openness to accept advice — therefore be coach-able and accept constructive criticism; and ideally, a willingness to take the necessary risks without giving up. I once heard a definition of an entrepreneur as someone who jumps out of a plane and, on the way down, tries to figure out how to construct a parachute. In some sense, EDC helps them make a parachute that will open; but the best entrepreneurs must first be committed to taking that initial leap.
Additionally, entrepreneurs need to able to accept failure, learn from it and try again. Most of the best entrepreneurs I have known have failed, often multiple times, before succeeding or, alternatively, succeed initially and then fail and fail again before their next success. I think this dynamic truly defines the best entrepreneurs but is poorly understood. Our culture likes to trumpet the successes of entrepreneurs but we are often quick to criticize their failures. Personally, I like to see a history of some hard-won lessons, as such tough experiences often ultimately create the most capable entrepreneurs. I once received a letter asking for assistance from a friend who was fired with little notice from his position running a West Coast tech company. Before I could provide any help, he was hired as Yahoo’s first CEO.
Q. EDC has always been a partner in Incubate Miami. Tell me about a few plans.
A. We are establishing a larger, more active day-to-day presence in Miami and are currently working with about a dozen very promising Miami start-ups. With our Incubate Miami partner, Marc Billings, we feel we already have a successful start as Marc has been a strong contributor to the Miami tech community for years. Marc has asked us to consider taking a larger role in the day-to-day operations of Incubate Miami, so you might see our Miami visibility rising a bit. Currently, Marc is in the middle of an accelerator class at the incubator and, based upon meetings I have had with his group, I have little doubt that some number of these start-ups will succeed and make Miami proud.
Q. What does EDC do for the entrepreneurial community outside of the incubators?
A. We try to do anything and everything we can to support the entrepreneurial community. We try to be a commercialization partner to our universities, we try to sponsor start-up weekends, tech meet-ups, hack-a-thons, topical business themed mini events, speakers, classes, etc.
Q. Do you have any additional efforts in the works?
A. We are currently building relationships with other incubators throughout the state. We are working with Broward College on an incubator and are separately moving discussions along at a few additional locations (stay tuned) and we are in discussions in expanding our efforts in Miami-Dade as I have already mentioned. However, the one thing we want to make sure to avoid is spreading ourselves too thin and becoming just another low-value-add incubator group. We want our start-up clients to receive extraordinarily valuable support from the EDC.
Q. How is EDC helping to provide a “soft landing” for foreign entrepreneurs and why is that important?