To join a startup incubator, you’ll need to go through an application process. Each incubator will have its own criteria for admission, but at the very least expect to show that you have a solid business idea as well as a business plan (even if it’s still in the works).
Once you’ve signed up, you can enjoy a variety of benefits, from access to a coworking space to mentorship. Members typically pay a monthly fee, which covers use of the shared space as well as of office equipment.
It’s about much more than just use of the space, however. When you sign up with a startup incubator, you’re in close proximity to other entrepreneurs. For many “graduates” of incubator programs, it is the shared knowledge and sense of fellowship that this engenders that is one of the most invaluable aspects of their incubation experience.
Business incubators also provide mentorship. Experts are around to help startups flesh out their ideas, work out the kinks in their business plans, and give advice on business processes that the new entrepreneur might not be aware of.
There’s no time limit to how long startups should “incubate”—every business is different—but most business incubators do expect to have members exit within a couple of years.