Launch Incubator: 5 Questions, 5 Answers

Posted by David Temple

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Two weeks ago, Scout graduated from Jason Calacanis‘s Launch Incubator.

Since then, we’ve been asked lots of questions about what it’s like to be in an incubator, so we thought we’d take a moment to publish our answers to the 5 most common questions we’ve gotten. Want more info on our experience? Please get in touch anytime, we are a company based on one-to-one advice after all ;)

First off, what exactly is an incubator? It’s a company (like Launch, Y-Combinator, or Techstars) that helps startups and young companies develop through advice from people who’ve been through it.

1) What do you actually do in the incubator?

The most common question. The Launch Incubator involves the following:

  • Weekly Pitches (Thursday evenings): Each of the 6 or so companies presents a 4-minute pitch to a panel of prominent VCs, angels, or founders, followed by a Q&A. This was the most valuable part of the incubator for us (more on that below).
  • Bi-Weekly Jam Sessions (Friday mornings): A collaborative deep dive into one aspect of running your business. With your fellow incubatees as a sounding board, you dig into topics like email marketing, hiring, or social media strategy.
  • Monthly One on Ones with Jason: Even the most well-connected and successful entrepreneur is going to get a lot of value out of this. Make the most of this time. Set your agenda ahead of time and be prepared to take notes.

2) YC or Launch?

We’ve never done YC, but the most valuable elements of our incubator experience are all unique to Launch:

  • Regular Public Feedback: The weekly pitch is a forcing function for clear thinking and decision-making, not to mention the value of regular advice from smart people.
  • Camaraderie: Being one of 6 companies, you get to know your fellow founders really well.
  • Personalized Attention: Again, you’re one of 6 or 7 companies.
  • Jason + Launch: When you’re in the Launch incubator, this team has your back 100%.

3) What was the most helpful part?

We’ve found that one of the hardest things about building a company is painting a vision of what you want to do for the world. It’s essential for your users, your investors, and even yourselves.

And it’s not easy. Jason/Launch make you pitch your idea again and again until the pieces finally start to fit together coherently. In short, we learned to tell our story.

This is one part of building a company that you just can’t do alone in a garage. The opportunity for regular feedback will make you stronger. Jason’s keen eye for bullshit will keep you honest. You’ll learn to trust your gut since everyone gives you different advice. And I guarantee you that there will be a moment where Jason tells you what your company does better than you’ve ever said it.

4) Is it worth 5% of your company?

For us it certainly was. Tangibly, it helped us raise money, grow our user base and attract great talent. Intangibly, it helped us tell our story more clearly (to users, friends, investors, etc.). It gave us validation/momentum. It helped us feel sane.

You fall into Launch Incubator’s sweet spot if:

  • You have a working product with real users (you’ll get much better feedback)
  • You think you’ll need to raise money soon and want to perfect your pitch
  • You’re ready to learn (lots)

5) What’s Jason like?

He’s crazy :) But in a good way.

Seriously though, once Jason is on your side, he’ll have your back in good times and bad. He pushes his companies hard, but he compliments and inspires you just as much. He’s a huge asset, and what he doesn’t do personally, the Launch team has on lock down.

In Conclusion

Realistically, the external perception of Launch Incubator is going to depend a lot on chance. If a few Launch companies turn into the next Dropbox, Airbnb (we have this one covered), or Heroku, then everyone will want to join. But we’d encourage you not to look at it that way. Launch is taking a big risk by accepting so few companies (less chance of unicorns), and in doing so, they are going to invest so much more time and effort into making you successful. Each outcome matters that much more.

Sure, the YC stamp of approval will help you get meetings, but that shine will wear off quickly if you don’t start getting traction. And that’s when you’ll want somebody who cares in your corner.

That’s why we did Launch, and it’s why we’d recommend that you do too.

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