Start-up Interview: InfinCubator Provides Online Incubation for Women in Tech
The internet is awash with companies that provide business advice to start-ups, but no online incubator appears to target women led businesses, specifically online and throughout the first three years of a sites existence. Here pitch-preneur at our recent Darwinian Business event, Egle Karalyte, founder of InfinCubator (an online incubator aimed at women), talks to The NextWomen about a life-time of entrepreneurial spirit, the need for an online one-stop shop and how the business will look in a years time.
Can you tell us a bit about yourself?
This is always really difficult, but let me try...
I am originally from Lithuania - a small country near the Baltic Sea. I left 10 years ago with a dream to see the world and I've been fortunate to have been given the opportunities to do so. Over the last 10 years I have studied Computer Science in Massachusetts (USA) & Dublin; worked in corporations and with start-ups in NYC and London, and travelled to the South and Far East. A need for freedom and adventure seems to have always been with me.
Because of personal reasons, I recently moved back to Europe and have settled in Paris. Since running my own business has always been dream of mine, a year ago I used this change of course to start my own e-business boutique consultancy - InfinVision. For the last year I've been helping companies to strategically integrate & leverage web 2.0 concepts, strategies and technologies. The web has been my passion since I was 16 years old, and so it seemed like a natural progression. I now juggle my time between London and Paris.
Can you explain InfinCubator and how you came up with the idea?
Since starting InfinVision I have networked like crazy - my first few clients were start-ups and consultants with small budgets. I've also met quite a few women with dreams to have their own businesses, but who had huge fears to just go and do it.
I've noticed that fear, a lack of knowledge about the web and budget constraints to hire consultancies or good web agencies, were the common obstacles between them and their dream. When you are jumping into a business without previous experience, getting web designers in India looks like a good idea - only $100 - but you don't realise that a bad web presence can seriously damage your brand, which later on is extremely difficult to fix.
I therefore wanted to help these women implement their dreams successfully, and so I came up with the idea for a web-based service that would give them everything they needed to jump-start properly: good professional advice; a do-it-yourself web platform; the correct people to do the job; a community for support, and all for an affordable price. In other words, a consolidated platform of the knowledge I was selling to bigger companies.
How are you different from other online incubators?
When I first started thinking about the venture, I did a lot of research, only to find there were very few good quality incubators. Obviously there are no web based incubators specifically aimed at women, which is a market greatly overlooked, especially considering more and more women are starting their own businesses. I've found a few incubators who focus on incubating a business in general, but without consideration for the intricacies of the web-based businesses. The others were either technology or investor focused, which are very narrow areas of advice, again leaving an aspiring entrepreneur in a position where they have to work with hundreds of suppliers.
Everyone is so specialised... But there is no "one-stop" shop, which would truly take an aspiring entrepreneur through the whole cycle of getting the venture prepared, launching, and then during the first 3 years in business - the most crucial parts for survival. I strongly believe there is a big gap here, and especially for a good service.
This is exactly where the InfinCubator comes in to help.
What is your business model? How will the site make money?
We will charge a membership fee to be part of the InfinCubator. There will be 3 types of memberships (Free, Standard, and Premium) which would give gradual access to the DIY resources, wizards, and community behind our platform. The core value of this is that it will save the user time if s/he was working with the freelancers alone and up to 70% of the costs if s/he was hiring a web agency. Marketplace and advertisement will also be part of the revenue streams, though marginal.
Who is in your team? What positions do you expect to require filling in the future?
I have a technology and design partner helping me with this project as well as my consultancy assignments. I also have a Financial Strategist and Marketing Strategist helping on an ad-hoc basis, and have identified a Project Manager who will later get involved. I will definitely need help with content production, and I am currently scouting for a good trainer/educator who would help to transfer technical/best practise content into the eLearning materials.
Has entrepreneurial spirit always been in your blood?
I think so. I've been selling something since the age of 12: helping my grandmother to sell her berries in the market; then starting my newspaper at school; selling greeting cards, and then running a mini web design business at 16. While I was in the States, the entrepreneurial spirit sort of stopped because of my studies and later on work visa requirements, but the dreams to have my own business have never vanished. I am happy that I am now on the path towards my dream.
How much funding do you require and what steps have you taken to achieve this?
We are not ready for funding yet, because we still need to refine the nitty-gritty parts of our services. We've estimated with my financial strategist, that we will need around £70K for the beginning. The first steps I have taken to funding, have been in pitching at The NextWomen event in October
Has the recession had any impact on how you are approaching your start-up?
Definitely. It is a hard time for a lot of entrepreneurs and especially start-ups. But I believe that my idea is very cost-conscious and will appeal to lots of people who want to save time & costs.
Where do you see InfinCubator in a year’s time?
Personally I don't like to rush and do thinks absent-mindedly. If we finish refining our offerings and develop the first version of the platform (from A-Z) then I will be happy. From here we will: pilot, refine, launch, market aggressively, refine, have fun.
What single piece of advice would you give to a woman thinking about starting an online business?
Join the InfinCubator - this will definitely help you save time & money long term and avoid mistakes - at the same time it will serve as a spring-board to bounce from when you are stuck and need help moving forwards.
Having the right help & backup is crucial for the success of any business.
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