Gestating in the Old Gray Lady

Posted 07 Apr 2013 to OpBandit, NYTimes, TimeSpace and has Comments

New York Times

The OpBandit team just finished our first week in the New York Times timeSpace. So far, everything has been going really well. We’ve been able to get some great feedback from some exceptionally talented people at the Times.

When describing the program, though, it can be tough because it’s really neither an accelerator nor an incubator. From the timeSpace website:

The Times will not seek equity in your company as part of the program. If and when you raise an institutional round of financing, The New York Times Company will separately consider participating if invited… We may become one of your customers during or after your time here. But this is not the purpose of timeSpace. You may call it an accelerator or an incubator; right now we are calling it an experiment.

While “accelerator” and “incubator” are frequently used interchangeably, there are distinct differences between the two terms. An accelerator helps early stage startups bring an idea to a prototype and then hopefully to market. They’re typically intensive, last only for a short window, and provide small amounts of capital for single digit equity. An incubator typically provides space, business services, and mentorship to foster gradual growth over a much longer period for a larger share of equity.

Unlike either of these, however, timeSpace takes no equity. It’s the duration of an accelerator with the services and support of an incubator. Rather than “an experiment,” though, I’d like to propose a new term. Since the New York Times is essentially “carrying” three companies during these early stages, it’s basically just gestation.

Gestator: A program hosted by an established company to provide young startups with short term space, mentorship, business development support, and optional capital in exchange for ideas and exposure (but no equity).

There are an increasing number of examples (Nike+, BBC Worldwide Labs, Kaplan EdTech, etc) of larger companies welcoming smaller ones into their space for this type of embedded gestation (unlike timeSpace, though, many of these do provide funding). It reminds me of an “startup in residence” type program - the larger entity gets new ideas, fresh perspectives, and a drive to shake things up a bit, while the startups get legitimacy and support.

Hopefully, this trend will continue. I think it’s great.