Partner Sites

Logo BusinessBecause - The business school voice
mobile search icon

Start-Ups Come To Life In Business School Incubators

Accelerators may give you the best chance of start-up success. Business school incubators provide the perfect place to raise funding, network and develop ideas.

Tue Jul 15 2014

Ben Mallett is being spoilt. “They are going all out for us,” says Ben, who made it onto Microsoft’s London-based venture accelerator earlier this year. “We have access to their rolodex, which is exceptionally useful.”

“It’s an exceptional program,” says Ben, whose mobile app business came second in his business school’s annual entrepreneurship competition, bagging him £2,000.

Since graduating from an Imperial College Business School MSc program, he and co-founders Philip Linnemann, Alvaro Sabido and Si Dhanak have worked with Microsoft’s technology incubator to get contacts and entrepreneurial mentors, and develop ideas. The founders, who are all former Imperial Master’s students, plan to expand and roll out the app for android users.

“It’s great to be in such an exciting atmosphere,” says Ben. Caribu is a mobile app that allows families to read a bedtime story together – wherever they are. The app integrates picture books into a simple, child-friendly video calling platform.

Microsoft’s accelerator has 11 other start-ups based in Whitechapel, East London. He adds: “The start-up scene is so vibrant and there is opportunity to grow year on year.” The team plan to join another incubator, The Bakery, all being well.

Ben is just one of a legion of upstarters hungry to feast on the learning opportunities and cost savings promised at incubator spaces. Many entrepreneurs, motivated by unsustainable rent prices, are instead turning to accelerators in capital cities.   

Many of these spaces are located in business schools. “Being based in an incubator allows entrepreneurs to share their problems and contacts with those around them,” says Bernard Garrette, associate dean of the HEC Paris MBA. The French business school operates an incubator, L'incubateur HEC.

Students benefit from the experience of past HEC start-up ventures, and of an alumni network of more than 50,000 students. The leading French business school also tries to put MBAs in contact with executives and journalists, and organizes weekly events with experts on various topics, depending on demand.

HEC Paris has just inaugurated an eLab for MBA students and entrepreneurs to connect in a collaborate environment. So far the school has only had an incubator for digital-based companies. HEC Paris also runs a co-working space on campus, and students are able to book meeting rooms in Paris on demand.

The school selects 12 start-ups twice a year for a one-year incubation program. Over the past six years they have fostered more than 130 companies, 80% of which are still running and turning a profit today, says Michael.

As well as collaboration, some of the biggest benefits of incubators are financial. Jesse Rogers, director of the Creative Destruction Lab, Rotman School of Management’s incubator, says: “MBA’s financial benefits come from the potential upside of joining or founding an early stage company that has the potential to grow quickly.” But he adds that this benefit is not equally distributed among students.

The Canadian-based business school has put 20 ventures and 26 MBA students through the lab so far, and Jesse expects 36 MBA students and roughly 18 new ventures to join the incubator’s third cohort in September.

“Our approach is not to provide funding but [to] help founders build ventures that will have the best chance of long-term success,” says Jesse. “Funding is a by-product of that success.”

The networks at incubators, however, provide access to potential investors. He adds: “In the networks around incubators you find angel funders, advisors, potential employees and co-founders.”

Networking is a big benefit of Cass Business School’s incubator, The Hangout. “They often come here and have decided that they want to start something, but have no idea how,” says Parveen Dhanda, who helps run helps run the day-to-day operations at the London-based centre.

“After using The Hangout, when it comes towards the end of MBA program they will have developed more relationships, and [will] have a better idea of how they want to take their ideas forward.”

Hot-desking costs £100 per desk each month at The Hangout, but is free for all City students and alumni who have graduated within two years. Last year, about 35 City students and alumni were using the incubator and she expects that number to swell. Around 10 of those students are MBAs.

“There are a lot of facilities you can use out there for free,” says Parveen. “The Hangout provides an opportunity for students who have decided on a business idea to work in an environment with similar start-ups.”

But you should not rely solely on a business school or incubator network. Bernard from HEC Paris says: “They must go outside of the network provided for them to meet with people and inventors in different spheres, as interaction between two distinct parties is what often results in true innovation.”

Instead, HEC Paris’ entrepreneurs are put in contact with scientists, experts, inventors and innovators. “We find their technical and scientific training to be the perfect complement to the business education we provide,” says Michael.

However, an incubator is not essential for entrepreneurial success. Professor Michel Safars, co-chair of HEC Paris’ MBA entrepreneurship specialization, suggests that standalone business school incubators can be seen as limiting – students may lack the technological and scientific edge that aids innovation.

Others say the start-up journey begins only once MBAs leave school, “as the years spent in the incubator are years spent training and learning the basics of business, and the theory behind starting your own company,” Michael adds.

Jesse, whose accelerator produced eight successful ventures and generated over $65 million in equity value in its first year, says incubators are not essential.

But he adds: “I think it is an extremely valuable environment for students to take advantage of while at school.”

Student Reviews

Bayes Business School




On Campus

Best Journalism school in Europe

When I first stepped onto the campus of City, University of London, I knew I was in for a ride - and not just on the Tube! With its vibrant energy and an impressive repertoire of programs, City U became my home away from home. The Journalism program was kind of a big deal. Rumour was that we were the best in Europe! The lecturers were not just experts in their field; they’re practically journalistic royalty. They were invested, passionate, and had a knack for turning the most flat press release into a riveting news story. With their guidance, I’ve learned to navigate the chaotic world of media like a pro. The campus was a melting pot of every culture, being that we had such a diverse international crowd. Being in the heart of London, I had the world at my fingertips - there was always a new corner to explore, a hidden gem of a cafe to discover, or a street performer! City, University of London wasn't just a university; it was a chapter in my life story that I’ll never forget.




On Campus

Learning environment

The teacher-learner ration is manageable, giving each learner a chance to gain personal attention. It is also easier following up on the progress of a student, as the numbers per class is not large. the conducive environment for learning includes clean classes, standard desks, world class instructional facilities and the opportunity to engage lecturers even after their sessions. The team spirit at City is above board, with learners getting chance to learn both from instructors and colleagues. This is the university of choice; the place to be.




On Campus


I liked that each class had a manageable number of learners, making the professor-learner ratio favor knowledge acquisition. I also liked that study schedules were manageable, and not overwhelming. The focus on talents and gifts even within the learning environment makes it possible for learners to achieve the best of their potential, and this has worked to the advantage of those that have schooled at City, University of London




On Campus


The diversity at City University facilitates interactions and is a direction toward the unity of the world. The classes are well built to match the number and needs of all students regardless of the elements of diversity that set people apart. The use of technology in delivery makes learning even more interesting and achievable. At City University there is no distinction pegged on the issues that make people unique.




On Campus


The team of lecturers at the Uiversity are well experienced. Their level of insight and the methodologies of delivery works for the interes of the leaeners. My learning experience was largely boosted by the level of knowledge of the professors at the institution, and their passion to transfer the same to learners. I appreciate every class I attended because of the level of insight I was able to gather




On Campus

The best university I’ve been to

The campus and the people I've met have made it a wonderful experience. I was reared in a small town with a graduating class of only 88 individuals, so moving to City University was a huge adjustment for me. My dorm has more residents than my whole high school combined! I enjoy the atmosphere here, and everyone is so friendly. Outstanding academic options and a stunning campus. Really great from beginning to end. The educators genuinely love what they do, and the students are ready to learn. On or around college, there is always something to do with friends, and the social scene is particularly warm.




On Campus

Bayes Business School

As a student at City university attending Bayes Business School I would totally recommend choosing this university as the experience is exceptional with great social networking opportunities . Professors are significantly helpful, delivering with excellence and professionalism. Everyone is happy to help and make you feel welcomed in such an esteem university as City, offering exceptional development and guidance through out the course.




On Campus

Economics and Politics

Incredibly amazing university, the way they polish students and help them boost their morale and think intellectually is worthwhile. Many universities have international partnerships to allow exchanges between their students. The most obvious subjects for these opportunities would be those that involve languages, and the study of people and places.




On Campus

Clinical biology

I really like it it’s perfect for me with not too many people and not too few either. All the modules are amazing. I love the toy bar. I love all the societies that I’ma part of. Especially the colour Bollywood society