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7 Things We Learned Growing Up in an Incubation Space

215 Marketing is moving out of the Baiada Institute and into new digs in Northern Liberties. Before moving on, they take a look back and offer advice for the next brood of budding startups.

215 Marketing

November 20, 2014

by Jon Vogel, Garrett Gillin and Ed Reybitz
Co-founders, 215 Marketing

Well, this is bittersweet.

215 Marketing is leaving the place we’ve called home for the past 18 months. That’s right, our home — not our office. But before we go, we wanted to leave you, the Drexel community, with a reflective take on our experience as an incubated company in the Baiada Institute and a few of the lessons we’ve learned along the way.

The Fire of Others Will Kindle Your Ideas

We can’t perfectly put our fingers on it, or explain the intensity behind it, but there is something attractive about working in a space filled with people just as passionate as you. That passion, that entrepreneurial spirit — it is fire, and the closer you stay to that fire, the brighter your fire will burn. Trust us.

We can’t count how many times we’ve debated taking a break or heading home for the night and then witnessed Booksmart plugged-in, working on their app, seen Spor sitting at their desk contemplating how to go to market, or Skyless Games and their army trying to change the world one line of code at a time, and then decided that if those people can put in the extra effort, so can we. There’s just something about seeing others “on their grind” that’s invigorating —a healthy competition to see who can hustle harder. Those late nights, early mornings and coffee cup forts – it’s drive, it’s fire, and it’s contagious.

Get near it, stay near it and enjoy it while you can.

Pay It Forward

Almost every entrepreneur we know has had a mentor, or group of mentors, at some point in time. A mentor who has given their time, advice and used their experience to help guide the young (and usually naive) entrepreneur in an effort to save them money, time, effort, or at least peace of mind. A mentor who took the time to benefit the young entrepreneur, seeking nothing in return except the satisfaction of helping someone who is traveling the same path they once were, helping someone the same way someone once helped them.

That’s called paying it forward.

We can’t even begin to tell you how fortunate we’ve been as an organization and as individuals to receive guidance and advice from so many people. We’ve tried our best to repay those individuals by always taking the time to help others embarking down the same startup path in their own shoes as we once were. Whether it was just kicking around an integrated marketing strategy, talking business development, or discussing SEO compliance, we really tried to go out of our way to help the other companies at Baiada when we could. With all the twists, turns, forked roads, potholes, tolls, flat-tires and stop signs that are on the path that is entrepreneurship, shouldn’t those who have navigated the road before be a guiding light for those that are about to embark on a similar journey? We think so.

One of the coolest dynamics we saw develop in Baiada (and we’re sure is true across most University incubation spaces) is how there are always the new, “young” entrepreneurs/companies (see: Chocamo), and also the “incubation veterans” (see: PurpleCloud). And by virtue of that, an opportunity for those who are knee deep in the pool of entrepreneurship to help those just getting their feet wet. Every entrepreneur has their unique successes and failures, ups and downs, all of which lead to lessons learned.

So parlay those experiences into the education of another, if for no other reason than because you can make the same impact someone once had on you.

215 Marketing

Fail Fast. Fail Forward

Here’s the first thing every entrepreneur should learn: prepare to fail. A lot.

Any incubating company or startup will fail and fail often, and that’s okay. Our company has probably failed more than any other company in our incubation space, but every time we’ve failed, we’ve grown. The best advice we can give any entrepreneur is to fail fast and fail forward. The quicker you fail, the faster you can make corrections and adjust; the closer you are to getting it “right.” Some might disagree with us, but in our mind, failure is nothing more than a building block, a stepping stone, and a necessary road traveled on the journey towards success. Failure will improve your decision-making ability, and flat-out make you stronger.

Learn from the mistakes you make, don’t get discouraged, and never be scared to fail.

Confidence Matters

One of the first things you learn in an incubation space, and in the startup world in general, is that confidence matters — both for the individual and the organization. Speaking from an individualistic standpoint, as the owner of a startup you are as much your idea as your idea is you. With that being said, you had better be confident and believe in yourself, because if you don’t, you’re showing a lack of faith and belief in your idea or company. You have to rely on your self-confidence to get you through those dire times, to drive you forward when you have nothing else to lean on, and to trust that the direction you’re heading is the appropriate one.

Confidence is almost as important as competence.

Confidence matters when giving elevator pitches, networking, recruiting team members, speaking to potential clients, or having discussions with investors. You can’t fake confidence, so believe in yourself, or no one else will.

Ideas Get Praised; Execution Gets Rewarded

Entrepreneurship is not about talking; it is about doing. If you follow us on social media, you know we love quotes (cough, Jon, cough). One of the more contemporary quotes we subscribe to is: “The dream is free, the hustle is sold separately.”

Isn’t that the truth? Everyone has dreams, but dreams don’t pay the bills. Dreams don’t build a business. Dreams don’t help you create all the different types of successes you desire. Hustle does. If there’s one thing we’ve learned during our tenure in Baiada, it’s that ideas don’t work unless you do.

Ideas are necessary, but are not sufficient enough on their own to bring you success. Execution is what complements the idea to create success. At the end of the day, ideas, theories, dreams and thoughts are all worthless unless you turn them into something tangible via hard work. There is no replacement for cause and effect, no shortcuts to success. If you want something, you must take the necessary actions to create it, as “hoping and wishing” is not a viable business plan for any startup. If you want to grow your business, you’ve got to grind. Work weekends, stay late, get up early and find a way, because no one else is going to build your business for you.

215 Marketing

Find Small Victories

You’re going to have some ups, you’re going to have some downs. Starting a company isn’t easy and if anyone ever told you it was, they lied — which is exactly why small victories matter.

Listen, the climb to the top of the mountain that all entrepreneurs must scale is ridiculously steep and you will not make the climb overnight. You’re going to need small wins and accomplishments to sustain your motivation to keep going. Small victories are all about taking pride in the little wins, whether it’s signing your first contract, making a new professional connection, creating a new logo, meeting a goal you set for yourself, or even being able to answer all the emails you wanted to answer in a day. They are all small victories and mini-springboards for success. We honestly don’t know if we would’ve survived without some of the small wins.

The next small victory has to be your carrot, part of your motivation. You’ve got to fight for the next small victory, however small it may be, because progress is progress as long as you are closer today than you were yesterday. Build on the small wins, thrive off them, fight for them, and before you know it, one step at a time, you're closer to the top of the mountain then you ever thought you would be.

Make Time To Learn

The title of this stanza is self-explanatory, and one of the things we did not do enough of during our time at Baiada  — learn. We got so caught up in “running our own company” and “being entrepreneurs” that we forgot to do the one thing that helped us get to where we are today in educating ourselves. Make time to learn, read books, articles, absorb knowledge and grow. You must continue to expand and challenge your mind if you want to accelerate your business and life. Doing so will not only improve you as an expert in your specific industry or space but also as a critical thinker and an asset to your company.

Schedule time to make yourself better and grow your mind the same way you dedicate time to grow your business. Trust us.

Closing Time

When we first started at Baiada, all we wanted was a place to call our own, a place to turn on our laptops, turn off our distractions and get to work. Pleasantly, what we got was so much more.

The main thing we learned here at Baiada was that incubation spaces are more than just cubicles and companies, strategy and pitches, deadlines and money. It’s about people, about community, and the cultivation of the entrepreneurial spirit. This place has become a home that houses our professional family. We feel so lucky to have been a part of, and hopefully contributed to, such a dynamic space filled with so many great people, staff, administration and entrepreneurs alike.

As we’ve grown, we’ve been privileged to watch Baiada grow, and moving forward we could not be more thrilled to say that our roots run back to an incubation space with as much culture, color and passion as the Baiada Institute. We’re not quite sure when, or how, or why we grew up, but we did, and as we embrace the next step in our journey, we want to thank everyone who helped us reach this point, and wish everyone success in their endeavors.

Baiada now has an extended home over at 1031 N. 3rd St, #101, Philadelphia, Pa 19123, and all are welcome.

215 Marketing has left the building.

215 Marketing

Supplemental Lessons:

  • Grow a beard and wear plaid - Ed
  • There’s no such thing as “too much” caffeine or naps. - Jon
  • Rule 1) Be efficient. Rule 2) Be productive. Rule 3) Begin at Rule 1. - Garrett
  • Good enough is better than perfect if perfect doesn't get done. - 215
  • Listen to Debbie - 215