Nonprofits From Startup Incubator Talk About Their Experiences

A recent article by startup incubator Y Combinator provided a summary of a roundtable talk by some of the new nonprofits that have come through its program. 

If you’re not familiar with incubators, basically they exist to allow startup founders – usually for-profit companies but sometimes nonprofits – to build out an early version of their startup, with the incubator providing workspace, some funding and mentorship opportunities (oftentimes in exchange for some equity in the young enterprise). 

The Y Combinator nonprofit founders that came together seemed to argue that many aspects of the “startup mentality” apply to nonprofits – for instance, setting clear and measurable success metrics and avoiding so-called “mission creep.” 

While some of the founders had set out in their nonprofits to push boundaries, such as improving methods of transparency, they lamented that sometimes, especially at such an early stage, it proved hard to realize those kind of ideals in the way they anticipated. However, they also said that they need to stick with their initial ideals regardless. 

Other suggestions from the roundtable included setting time limits on fundraising, and to spend “physical time with users” – i.e. the people that the nonprofit’s mission is to help. We’d love to hear your thoughts on these points in the comments!

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