For the past 20 years I’ve watched the power incubators have had in technology. I’ve taken notes diligently, spoken to my 100+ portfolio company founders and have been quietly developing what is, hands down, the greatest startup program ever created.
It’s called the LAUNCH Incubator and we’ve graduated 13 startups in the last two classes.
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We studied Bill Gross’ pioneering Idealab, which brought us eToys and PeoplePC, and Paul Graham’s gold-standard YCombinator, with its phenomenal scale and triplet of unicorns in Zenefits, Dropbox, and Airbnb, as well as David Cohen’s innovative Techstars, which has reached across many cities and corporate partners including Disney and Microsoft.
These three programs are all exceptional and we’ve looked at everything they’ve done right, and combined it with our huge platform which includes the LAUNCH Festival (15,000 attendees, the largest startup conference in the world), the SCALE conference (4,000 attendees and 50+ growth speakers) and This Week in Startups (500+ episodes and counting!).
We’ve come to the conclusion that the best incubator in the world needs to focus on five things:
- Small class size
- Early access for great investors
- A curriculum focused on tactical issues
- Accepting startups with finished products
- Relentless support post demo day
We’ve done two classes so far, and we are accepting applications for three remaining slots in our Winter Class, which starts the week of November 16th. Our first class had 150 applicants and our second class had 350. Our current class will have over 500.
Most people won’t get in, but we’re going to meet with the top 10% in person and give them as candid feedback as we can, in the hopes that we might have them join us for the Spring Class or LAUNCH Festival.
You can apply at launchincubator.co (November 10th is the deadline, applications are being reviewed in the order they come in).
Let me explain a little bit about each lesson and share with you what our founders have said.
1. Small class size
The biggest challenge YCombinator companies have right now is that every class has over 100 startups. Those 100 startups all present over two demo days, and I can tell you as an angel investor, this is overwhelming. Everyone on the buy side agrees with this, but it makes sense that YC would make 100 bets — it’s in their best interest. Most folks agree this is really bad for the startups, with legendary VC George Zachary saying he stopped going to YC’s demo day recently.
At YC the startups hear from a speaker each week, but there is no way for those speakers to know about you. At the LAUNCH Incubator you get up EVERY. SINGLE. WEEK. and present your company to a couple of investors and the speaker. They give you feedback on your vision and product. This is insanely valuable, but it takes 10-15 minutes per company. It takes a solid 1:45:00 to present all seven startups.
You can’t give each company 10-15 minutes if you have 20, 30, or 100+ startups in a cohort. Heck, at the YC demo day they get two minutes on stage, we do 10-15 minutes every week. You can’t explain your business in two minutes, but you can in 10-15 (I’ve learned this after 20 years of running demo-type conferences).
That’s our biggest advantage over YC or even 500 Startups: scale. We’re intimate, they’re enormous.
Intimate is good for you, enormous is good for them.
Also, I’m running ~14 of the 18 sessions we hold, so you have direct access to me. At 500 startups or YC you’re not going to get much face time with the top folks — just by the law of numbers.
2. Early Access to Amazing Investors
All of the incubators out there have a hard-and-fast rule that you can’t raise money while you’re in the program, forcing founders to wait until DEMO DAY. They say that they do this because it’s in the best interest of a startup, but that’s not the real reason. They do this to create a feeding frenzy on DEMO DAY, which is necessary because they have so many companies graduating.
I’ve always thought this is really stupid. What you really want is to get the BEST investors into the companies, which is what I’m doing. I invite three top investors to come and see the companies early. I let my friends FRONT RUN the entire market.
Is this fair to other investors?
Does that matter? Again, the huge incubators have to run a demo day in order to get a feeding frenzy going — we don’t.
I’m trying to get the BEST investors to invest in my startups and we only have seven to get funded. If I bring three investors per week over 12 weeks, well, I’m going to get our founders funded long BEFORE demo day (unless they suck, in which case we kick them out — which we have done 2x)!
3.& 4.Tactical Issues & Finished Products
We are accepting startups that are fairly far along, so we have a great advantage in that we are teaching them how to refine and grow their startups — not how to build their MVP. Everyone in the class has builders on their team, so the entire pack will be running fast and iterating every week.
We learned this the hard way when in our first class we had startups who had outsourced their development, or who didn’t have a designer online. Those startups simply couldn’t keep up, and in fact would slow the rest of the class down.
You can’t focus on your street team or A/B testing if there is no product to take to the streets!
5. Relentless Support Post-incubator
Thanks to our huge conferences, podcast, network, and social media footprint, we can do very unique things for our startups that other incubators simply can’t. You probably have seen me doing contests for Bento on Twitter, or hosting a Q&A for “The Martian” this month for RushTix. We also had Recurrency, Requested, Red Tricycle, and Huckle speak at the SCALE conference about growth techniques!
There are only a handful of angels in the world with the ability to get behind a startup like we can. Those other investors are Mark Cuban, Cyan Banister, Kevin Rose, Tim Ferriss, Chamath Palihapitiya, Dave Morin, and Chris Sacca, and the good news is that we’re close friends with these folks and we have invested alongside all of them … and they’ve all spoken at our events!
Our incubator accepts 1.5% of applicants and about 10% don’t graduate … because it’s hard. Hard to get in and hard to get through. We’re the Navy Seals of incubators by design.
If you’re applying to Techstars or YC, you should apply to the LAUNCH Incubator.
If you get into YC or Techstars and the LAUNCH Incubator you should think deeply about who your partner will be at each incubator and ask yourself, “How does this partner at YC/TS compare with Jason?”
If you think they have a better network, platform, and they will work harder for you, you should select them.
I’m hoping you pick my team. 🙂
I’ve included some blog posts from the alumni below. The best way to pick your incubator is to talk to the founders who have graduated from them.
“Only apply to the LAUNCH Incubator if you want to get Jedi-level presentation training, get a ‘yes’ from every angel investor you talk to, attract a world-class team, build a world-class product and get expert feedback….” More – Brian Alvey, Recurrency
“Requested changed by 50% and our design UI UX changed by 95%, all in less than 90 days. Anyone in a startup out there, the modifications that we did through this program will take you six to nine months.” More – Sonny Mayugba, Requested
“We pitched to different judges every week (VC, angel investors, successful founders) and got feedback … It forced us to iterate fast. Every week we improved the product or did more market research to improve our presentation … By week 12, our product and pitches were 10x better.” More – Mei Siauw – LeadIQ
“Jason’s approach to building a great product starts at the pitch and the results we were able to show for it became evident almost immediately. The network we were able to build and the relationships we fostered will last a lifetime.” More – James Heller – Wrapify
“If you’re lucky enough to get the opportunity to participate in JC’s Incubator (it’s really competitive), you should jump at it. There is no other accelerator/incubator that compares)” More – Jacqui Boland, Red Tricycle
“You will be put through the firing range of some of the heaviest hitters in the industry. People that have grown companies to millions of active users will be giving you unabated feedback on your product.” More – Jordan Stone, Huckle
“It was an incredible 3 months that gave us insider knowledge and resources that can’t be found anywhere else … Throughout the experience we were taught new skills that we were able to implement almost immediately into the company.” More – Juan Carlos Perez – Crux
“Launch is taking a big risk by accepting so few companies (less chance of unicorns), and in doing so, they are going to invest so much more time and effort into making you successful. Each outcome matters that much more.” More – David Temple – Scout
“I loved my 12 weeks in the Launch Incubator, so much so that I did not want it to end. Jason and his amazing team understand what works for getting your product all glammed up and investor-ready … He gives you the truth, no egomaniac baloney, just straight talk on how to make your company better.” More – Jill Bourque, RushTix
“You will come out of the incubator with a vastly improved product, a crystal clear pitch, feedback & advice from the top minds in Silicon Valley and an incredible group of peers.” More – Jason Demant, Bento