Times Internet Launches Incubator [Bubble Is Back]

Times Internet has launched T-labs, an incubation programme designed to nurture and support the ideas and projects of budding Internet & mobile entrepreneurs .

“T-Labs will work with the startups and provide them support at each and every step. It will not only help them in defining and detailing their concept into a business plan, but will also help in implementing of the idea and refining the product by leveraging its vast infrastructure, user base and experience. Our mentorship and quality leadership would ensure that the products of these budding entrepreneurs would compete with the very best in internet and mobile industry “ [ET]

As an entity, Times Internet’s tryst with product is as limited as it could be – the company is pretty much into every thing in the name of Internet business – right from content business to ecommerce to classifieds to running content farm (or rather a cheap seo game monetized by adsense). But not a single product has come out of the company, so that raises a big question on such initiatives (especially when they are talking about bringing ‘mentorship and quality leadership’ to the table).

I’d rather request Times Internet to invest in startups (i.e. pure ca$h), the way Info Edge has been doing.

What should an incubator bring to the table?:

a. Mentorship

b. Industry Contacts.

c. $$s

d. Immense Industry Insights

e. If its an organization, they need to walk the talk [that is, you should be in product business if you are incubating product startups].

f. Real estate [sorry, have to mention this as this is where most of the incubation entities’ USP lies].

The Incubator Bubble

The announcement of Times Internet’s incubation lab, i.e. T-Labs  does makes me believe that bubble is back – especially when everybody is launching an angel business to an incubator, without getting the basics right. Times Internet’ leadership lies in marketing/sales and not product business and incubation lab could just end up being a guinea pig for their product experiments (just the way it happened with Airtel and why they shut down Airtel Innovation fund).

While announcements like these are a good news for the ecosystem, startups need to be very clear on the incubator they choose. Especially when the incubator is in the business of doing everything and has a track record of following the trend (i.e. not a thought leader). And when big companies follow the trend, they also look at stealing new ideas (to create a trend) and startups should just be careful whom they are talking to.

Excerpt from an earlier post: Making of Incubator Bubble in India

From my past startups I do know quite a few entrepreneurs who do mentor couple of startups. But they do that out of interest and not to make a business out of it. All of them are running their second or third startup, because that is what they really like doing. Mentoring to them is more out of hobby than to make a business out of it.

Today it is not so difficult to either get mentoring (as there are a lot of STE running their next venture) or angel funding (as there are a lot of HNI’s/STE’s ready to invest). I would definitely not use any of the existing incubation and would advice others the same.

And while we are talking about incubation/investment by big firms, an important company to mention here is InfoEdge, which has established itself by building an Internet product business in India (not a content farm) and has been actively investing in companies.

So as a startup, chose what’s right for you – not because of someone’s brand name, but what they bring to the table.

What’s your take?

Recommended Read: What kind of Advisor Does A Startup Really Need?

[Image credit: Steven | Alan/Flickr]

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