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  • Mark Zanders

Incubating a Unicorn

Updated: Mar 9, 2021

The views portrayed in this Incubating a Unicorn blog are subject to change at any time based upon market or other conditions and are current as of October 30th, 2020. While all material is deemed to be reliable, accuracy and completeness cannot be guaranteed.

“Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who have kept on trying when there seemed no hope at all.” - Dale Carnegie

When creating AFZA Capital as a fund, our original ideas were based on how we were going to be able to help as many companies as possible while maintaining a focus on social impact. We set the foundational four pillars into place; FinTech, MedTech, Agriculture and Education with the expectations that we would not be able to fund everyone.

In practicing our form of Modern Portfolio theory, we wanted to balance quality and quantity. This is actually tougher to do then type. I was told early in my VC career that there is no bad idea, but only poor execution. Plain and simple, we want to help make a difference and guide companies to success.

Think of an incubator just as the name suggests: a place to incubate your idea, develop your business plan, and prepare your startup for success. We want entrepreneurs to set their idea and company up for success.

There are some notable companies that have come from incubators. The most notable is Airbnb with its 10 billion+ valuation. Other notable companies are Instacart, Zenefits, Stripe and Dropbox. (All four valued in the single billions and growing).

  • Airbnb is an online marketplace for arranging or offering lodging, primarily homestays, or tourism experiences. The company does not own any of the real estate. (Y Combinator)

  • Instacart operates a grocery delivery and pick-up service in the United States and Canada. (Y Combinator)

  • Zenefits is a company based that offers cloud-based software as a service to companies for managing their human resources, with a particular focus on helping them with health insurance coverage. (Y Combinator)

  • Stripe is an FinTech software company that allows individuals and businesses to make and receive payments over the internet. (Y Combinator)

  • DropBox is a file hosting service that offers cloud storage, file synchronization, personal cloud, and client software. (Y Combinator)

Incubators are great to attend, and we highly recommend doing so. BUT, I am the first to share that that I don’t encourage entrepreneurs to embrace the herd mentality. Get ideas, learn what others are doing to be successful, but make sure you are creating your path forward. The whole point is to your idea off the ground and running!

As you can see from the above list, Y Combinator has been a tremendous leader as an Incubator. Other notable Incubators and Accelerators are:

Plug and Play Tech Center (Sunnyvale, CA)

Global Program

Notable Alum: Rappi, N26, Hippo, Honey, Frame, Tenor

Berkeley SkyDeck (Berkeley, CA – University of Berkeley)

Student focused

RocketSpace (San Francisco, CA and London, UK)

Notable Alum: Uber, Spotify, and Zappos

Powerhouse (Oakland, CA)

Notable Alum: Nanogrid, Solstice Energy Solutions, ElectrIQ Power, UtilityAPI, PVComplete

As we work to grow our footprint, we will be seeking both companies and mentors. Our mentors and coaches are key to pushing your idea or product forward. 

We look forward to growing with you.

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