Project: LaunchWay

The Case for a Community-Based Incubator

nReduce was a virtual startup incubator. It recently closed down. In many ways, nReduce was a pioneer. It allowed would-be startup founders to join a curated online community that promised to give them a support network and a social platform while they were developing their ideas into products and companies. More importantly, nReduce brought together like-minded people who were doing the same thing, facing the same challenges.

In this respect, we should look back on nReduce not as a failed idea, but as an experiment in a space that has only just begun opening up.

One central lesson is that online incubators (if that's even the right word) are fundamentally different from physical startup incubators. Online incubators are social frameworks for founders helping each other out as they go through the same experience. They're a motivational tool, a communication platform, and a way to get very early feedback from smart people. Online incubators are not - at present - virtual farms where VCs and angel investors develop a hand-selected batch of startup candidates with funding and influence.

I believe, a true community-based online incubator can shine in this space if it knows its true strengths and doesn't aim to solve problems it's badly positioned for.

LaunchWay is an attempt at building a Ludum Dare for startups and software projects. It is not YCombinator, or Tech Stars, nor does it aim to be. It's a platform where people can incubate their ideas in a nurturing community. Mechanisms such as a karma score and weekly deadlines are designed to provide additional motivation and feedback.

Originally we planned to launch the first class in November '13 but at this point it's clear that we're going to need a bit more runway for the idea to get sufficient traction. It's our goal to form a minimally viable community of startups to form the first batch. If you want to be part of that batch, just sign up now, I'll keep you updated! :)