If you’ve been around the entrepreneurial and start-up community, you’ve heard the words “incubator” and “accelerator”, and know that both are organizations established to support entrepreneurs through product growth and development. The main difference between the two is that accelerators take equity in externally developed ideas in exchange for capital and mentorship. Meanwhile, incubators bring in an external team to help entrepreneurs to assist in growing internal ideas. But a new type of entrepreneur support is gaining steam in the ESHIP community: “startup studios”.
A startup studio is different from an incubator and an accelerator in the sense that they help entrepreneurs to build out their idea, from start to finish. Some startup studios generate ideas internally, while others may take in entrepreneurs and ideas as part of their portfolio. Similar to an incubator and an accelerator, the goal of a startup studio is to take a risk on new ideas, work with entrepreneurs through failures, and work hard to help entrepreneurs to grow their idea through to a market exit.
The unique distinctions of a startup studio fall in the areas of ideation, the number of entrepreneurs they support, and the resources they provide. Startup studios are not solely early-stage investors in your company, they function as co-founders, supporting entrepreneurs through ideation to success and selling the business. Additionally, since the goal of a startup studio is to help entrepreneurs achieve exits, they will work with a number of entrepreneurs over time, with repetition of a process or outline across various investments and companies. Finally, while accelerators and incubators specifically provide support in the forms of capital, mentorship, and at times, office space, startup studios utilize pooled resources to help entrepreneurs succeed. These resources include shared networks of social capital, tried and true processes, and tangible tools and resources.
The ways in which engaging with a startup studio as an entrepreneur are many. First, if you are still in the ideation and development stage of your business, a startup studio can help you early on to flesh out your plan, goals, and steps to success. For those of us who may not have the social capital to interact and learn from fellow entrepreneurs, the shared networks provided by a startup studio can help you to meet with other founders and share best practices. Additionally, a startup studio is a space for entrepreneurs to create, therefore, they provide access to the necessary tools and wraparound services, such as a workspace.
In the Kansas City metropolitan area, there is currently only one startup studio working with entrepreneurs: Block Knowledge. Block Knowledge, formerly known as Project United Knowledge (PUK), aspires to build a better KC, block by block, specifically in the area of access to resources for underestimated STEM based entrepreneurs. Block Knowledge empowers the underestimated founder within rural and urban communities to realize their fullest potential and to impact the universe through entrepreneurial STEM innovation, access to equitable
opportunities, mentorship, apprenticeship, and support and development. Block Knowledge identifies as a startup studio and “venture builder”, and as a venture builder, are committed to providing resources to founders who want to rapidly validate their business ideas. Their goal is to assist and grow founders by developing their products through a 3 or 9-month EDU program.
So is a startup studio the right fit for you? If you are an entrepreneur or founder in the early stages of ideation, or you feel that you need the additional support systems a startup studio can provide, the answer is yes.