The Startup as the Incubator

At every startup for which I’ve worked in the Bay Area, nearly everyone either has an idea for their own company or frequently begins a conversation with, “You know what is a great idea for a company?  I’ll tell you…”

What was unique about my last company, however, was the number of execs who actually had the initiative to leave and start something on their own.  Counting me (who turned my spouse’s job relocation to Honolulu into an opportunity to start my own business), no less than four members of our leadership team left to pursue their own ideas!

Each of these startups – all less than 12 months old – have gone on to create some early traction, leading me to believe that if my previous company were compared to an incubator, their ROI would be looking very good!

Here is a quick look at the different directions taken by these “graduates”:

  • Claritics, co-founded by the former head of products and continuing his career-long focus on analytics software, but with a modern spin:  A focus on analytics for Facebook apps, online gaming, and Android apps – all hyper-growth areas, for sure.
  • Stampt, founded by the former CEO, aims to replace your old, paper-and-stamp loyalty card systems (think Subway and coffee shops) with an app that customers use to simply scan a barcode at checkout and accumulate points.  For merchants, it provides a wealth of data that ink/paper stamps could never capture, and offers a platform for not only customer loyalty, but incentives and offers based on actual purchases.
  • PriceTector, co-founded by the former head of sales, is currently in stealth mode, but will enable big box retailers to more accurately track and reward customer loyalty.
  • HulaCopter, founded by yours truly, the former head of marketing, is focused on helping Hawaii’s small businesses market to vacationers’ smartphones.

If there’s a moral to this story, it’s that you can’t keep an entrepreneur caged.  Sure, there’s a huge hurdle between formulating a great idea and actually taking the plunge to start your own company.  But, what separates the employee from the entrepreneur is that burning desire to follow your idea.

Maybe this is the moral:  If you love your entrepreneurial employees, set them free…

[author] [author_image timthumb=’on’][/author_image] [author_info]Prior to starting my current company, HulaCopter, I worked for a few startups in Silicon Valley. Most recently, I ran marketing at a behavioral analytics software firm. It was your typical Silicon Valley startup, with about 15 employees, VC backing, and tremendous potential. But, as is also typical, startups have an underlying challenge: most of the employees working there have business ideas of their own and have worked at enough startups to have gained an entrepreneurial drive (or have worked at early stage companies because of that entrepreneurial drive).[/author_info] [/author]

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