"Nurture" is his middle name.
By Charlotte Mulhern
It's an enormous undertaking traditionally administered by the government--but that didn't stop entrepreneur Jim Robbins from taking a crack at it. Five years ago, the founder of Menlo Park, California-based Business Cluster Development set forth to do what no one had before: design a system of business incubators for California's emerging technology companies. To date, Robbins has started eight incubators.
"It's a win-win situation," says Robbins, 50. "The process is viewed positively by the community as well as by the individual companies. And I like helping people get things started."
How does he do it? Robbins creates incubators using a prototype he formulated for technology-specific firms. The funds to set up the incubators are privately donated, unlike conventional incubators primarily sponsored by government grants. "We're taking what we've done successfully in one incubator and replicating it to open others," Robbins says.
It's a concept that works. Of the 180 companies he's helped so far, 85 percent continue to reap profits while on their own.
Business Cluster Development also awards incubator scholarships to women- and minority-owned businesses, opening doors to those who may not otherwise have the chance. Says Robbins, "It's clear the companies that come into these incubators have a higher success rate."