Two Minute Tips

Covering your local startup scene

December 13, 2017

Share this article:

Startup accelerators tend to focus on growth, while incubators focus on innovation. (“Odometer” image via Pexels user Mike CC0 License)

Startups aren’t just a coastal phenomenon. While Silicon Valley is often considered the country’s startup mecca, smaller hubs are now emerging in other cities. For instance, Austin, Texas has earned the nickname Silicon Hills for its influx of tech firms. Inc. Magazine reports that Milwaukee, Salt Lake City and Buffalo, New York offer fledging companies an alternative to pricey Silicon Valley.

Where there’s a startup scene, there are often accelerators and incubators, programs designed to grow and nurture the infant businesses. The difference between a startup incubator and an accelerator can be murky, but typically incubators focus on innovation while accelerators focus on scaling up an already existing business. Often these programs have an application process and offer not just guidance, but a communal workspace for the length of the program. (Another hallmark of startup hubs are co-working spaces, where companies can rent desks or offices without being part of an incubator or accelerator program.)

Silicon Valley-based Y Combinator is among the most competitive programs; its business model is investing money in early-stage startups. Founders spend three months working intensively to refine their business model. The process culminates on Demo Day, a common fixture of incubators and accelerators. During this single-day event, startup founders pitch potential investors in short business presentations. TechStars also runs accelerators in several cities, and there are many others catering to niche groups such as female or LGBT entrepreneurs, military veterans, founders of color or businesses that focus on specific social issues.

In addition to programs run by venture capitalists or seed funders, some non-profits and universities also run incubators that may not require founders to give up any equity. The National Business Incubation Association (NBIA) can help you identify others.

Questions to ask in your startup coverage

• Do the incubators or accelerators in your area receive equity from entrepreneurs? Do startups stay local after completing the program or do they tend to relocate to larger cities? How many have gotten funding following Demo Day? How much funding?

• Does your city or state offer any incentives (tax or otherwise) for startups to launch in your area? What are those incentives and how are they being used?

• Do local startups tend to focus on a specific area? For instance, are they mainly B2B tech startups or consumer-focused apps? Why is that? What challenges do startups outside of that mold face?

• How do startups in smaller markets attract talent? Do local startups lure developers from bigger cities with promises of cool perks and a lower cost of living? Do they have relationships with local colleges or coding academies?

Reporter’s Takeaway

• Some startups participate in accelerators or incubators, or rent a co-working space, so those can be good sources for identifying startups in your area, especially if you’re able to attend a Demo Day. Also look at local startup or entrepreneur meetups or see if your city is on Nextplex for more story fodder.

• While shows like “Shark Tank” and a lot of media coverage focus on funding, that’s not the only metric of startup success. Some founders choose to bootstrap rather than giving up equity, so consider other metrics such as monthly active users (for an app) or revenue growth (often measured month-over-month rather than year-over-year for early-stage startups). Forbes explains other startup metrics.

• Recently launched startups may not have much of a track record or many metrics to share. Deepen your coverage of early-stage startups by including insights from those not directly involved. For instance, a business or entrepreneurship professor at a local university could provide context on other companies within that space, how the startup’s approach differs and what challenges they foresee for the company.

More Like This...

Upping the focus on women small business owners

Despite decades of progress women still face many hurdles in the male-dominated business world, but more and more business-savvy women are finding they are their own best boss – and

Two Minute Tips

Sign up now.
Get one Tuesday.

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism.

Subscribers also get access to the Tip archive.

Get Two Minute Tips For Business Journalism Delivered To Your Email Every Tuesday

Two Minute Tips

Every Tuesday we send out a quick-read email with tips for business journalism. Sign up now and get one Tuesday.

Our New Look
The Reynolds Center for Business Journalism is starting 2023 with a new look that we hope better illustrates our core mission to provide accurate and authoritative resources about business journalism, in order to help both reporters and news consumers understand the importance of business news and to demystify the sometimes arcane topics it covers.
Businesses, markets, and economies move in cycles – ups and downs – which is why our new logo contains a “candlestick” chart representing increases as well as downturns, and serves as a reminder that volatility is an unavoidable attribute of modern life. But it’s also possible to prepare for volatility by being well informed, and informing the general public to help level the information playing field is the primary goal of business journalism. The Reynolds Center is committed to supporting that goal, which is why the candlestick pattern in our logo merges directly into the name of our founding sponsor, Donald W. Reynolds.
Our new logo comes with a shorter name. Business is borderless, and understanding the global links in supply chains, trade, and flows of funds and people is essential to make sense of our fast-paced, globalized world. So we’re dropping the word “National” from our name and will aim to provide content that is applicable to business news globally.
We hope you like the new look. Best wishes for 2023!