Finding the right co-working space for your life science company is not easy. Biotech incubators offer a wide range of options in lab space, infrastructure, shared equipment, and services; so how do you pick the right one for your company? When interviewing a wet lab incubator, ask the following five questions to determine which incubator is the best fit for your company.
How are startups connected to funding opportunities?
Funding is the lifeline of any startup. It is important to understand the types of capital connections an incubator provides to their companies. Early-stage startups in need of seed funding benefit from incubators with direct connections to angel investors and/or grant writers. Some incubators offer corporate sponsored competitions that award winning companies with funding, incubator membership, and corporate connections. Ask if the incubator hosts member-only events with local and/or out-of-state venture capitalist groups. Before choosing an incubator, evaluate how the incubator will help your funding strategy by asking important funding questions for wet lab incubators.
Who is incubating here?
Most incubators have a niche ecosystem filled with consultants, investors, and innovators. Determining if the incubator has the right ecosystem is achieved with one question – “Who is incubating here?” Often websites provide outdated information on their resident companies. Knowing the names and sectors of active incubating companies will give you a strong sense of the ecosystem. An incubator with predominantly clean energy startups may not be the best fit for your therapeutic company.
May I have the list of the shared equipment and services?
Ask what equipment and services are covered in the membership fee. Often, incubators list tissue culture labs as a shared resource, but charge an hourly or daily usage fee. Some incubators require companies to use their centralized purchasing system and charge high processing fees. While reviewing the equipment list, determine what percentage of the equipment your company will actually use. Why pay for access to high-tech microscopy or fabrication equipment when your company only needs a fume hood and a balance? You may also want to take into consideration the proximity and access to regional core facilities as different sites charge varying rates.
How is shared equipment monitored, managed, and maintained?
Having an extensive library of shared equipment is valueless if the equipment is broken, poorly maintained, or requires costly consumables. Ask how the incubator ensures proper training and usage of equipment to prevent misuse. Request to view the equipment scheduling calendar to see if equipment is available or booked weeks in advance. Ask if the incubator has a certification and calibration program and who monitors it. Find out which consumables are provided by the incubator and which ones you need to provide.
How do you protect from data breaches?
Coworking spaces’ open and communal setting increases the risk of your company’s data being hacked. Often startups have a false sense of security as they forget they are working beside people outside of their company. Questions for wet lab incubators specifically addressing how the incubator monitors network activity and what firewalls and anti-virus software are used. If you are not leasing private lab or office space, ask about secured storage options like lockable lab drawers and file cabinets.
By asking the right questions when interviewing a wet lab incubator, you will find the right co-working space and avoid the pitfalls of hidden costs and poor resources/services.