Some of the most interesting new web projects seem to be coming out of a new breed of incubator. Obvious has released the widely heralded Twitter. Y Combinator has had several hits, including currently buzzed about companies like Scribd, Justin.TV and ImInLikeWithYou. Yahoo’s Brickhouse launched Pipes to great reviews. Another new incubator, Ooga Labs is hoping that GoodTree will be a hit (disclaimer: I’m an adviser). Seems like too many successful product launches to be a coincidence.
I’m calling the companies behind these products incubators because they work on multiple projects at once in a more experimental fashion than regular companies. However it might be a misnomer. The infamous incubators of the late 90s were VC driven and more focused around optimizing the business side of running lots of small businesses in one batch. The new incubators are more like product labs where smart product engineers and designers get to iterate quickly through new ideas without marketing people, executives or VCs breathing down their necks (actually, kind of sounds like Automattic fits this model as well). Whatever they’ll be called, they seem to be growing in popularity and they releasing very interesting products.
One reply on “The new incubators seem to be working”
Very different from the Idealab concept of incubator. You still have shared resources, but the new breed seems to be more open to ideas developing from within instead of just at the top.
A project or feature becomes its own product and possibly its own company through the openness and support of the centralized management and money structure. In the case of Obvious and Brickhouse there's a realization that there might be something in an idea or hack worth exploring, worth an iteration or two. Brickhouse and Obvious also see supporting such initiatives as talent retention and encouraging experimentation among its employees.