About the Incubator
What is Futureworks Incubator?
Futureworks Incubator builds off the success of New York’s Next Top Makers to support the growth of hardware and advanced manufacturing startups and entrepreneurs in New York City. Through committed mentorship, expert-led workshops, a devoted alumni network and a passionate Founders community, we make building a company easier, cheaper and faster.
Join the community as a Mentor, Startup, Partner or Sponsor and become embedded in a versatile and growing community of startups, local manufacturers, investors, and production spaces. In addition to joining a community, you will get preferred access to events and showcases relevant to getting your hardware company off the ground. We take no equity, and there’s no cost to participate. We simply ask you engage with the intention to contribute and grow as part of this inspiring network. Futureworks Incubator is led by global innovation agency SecondMuse and Chelsea-based Imagination in Space.
How is Futureworks Incubator different this year than last?
Perhaps the most obvious is that Futureworks Incubator has a new name. For the past three years, NYCEDC ran New York’s Next Top Makers. The program will also expand from six companies in the incubator to three cohorts of 15 to 25 companies or entrepreneurs each in stages of development ranging from idea to market validation to scale and manufacture.
The Incubator is also part of a larger investment by NYCEDC to support the local hardware and advanced manufacturing sector. In addition to the Incubator program, NYCEDC invested in bringing TechShop to Sunset Park, in supporting traditional manufacturers, and investing in prototyping and other facilities throughout the city that support the growth of urban and advanced manufacturing. Familiar program elements will be carried over from previous years such as Summits, Showcases, Founders Lunches, Workshops and access to an incredible and diverse network of Mentors. Participating startups and entrepreneurs will have access to the Product (or Idea) Startup Plan, which will guide the experience in the program.
Ultimately, the program is bigger than years past, provides more options for startups at different stages and has a better name! You will see lots of familiar faces starting with the organizing team (Katey, Elyssa, Blake and Greg), our program partners, Mentors and alumni from previous year.
How can the program help me grow?
There are three cohorts within the program – each targeting distinct stages of growth and development. The cohorts are broken down by idea-stage entrepreneurs, early startups looking to validate their market and mid-to-later stage startups that are seeking investment and looking to manufacture at scale. If you think you fit one of these three profiles or somewhere in between, fill out the application and let us know if you have any questions.
Those accepted into the program will be assigned to a cohort and a recommended set of activities. Once invited to participate in the program, you will be expected to commit to an immersive daylong Summit alongside your cohort and to attend at least two of 10 scheduled workshops. You will have access to a network of Mentors, programming specifically designed for you and your cohort, showcase opportunities and networking events. Idea-stage entrepreneurs can apply now but please note that programming will not begin until August 2017. Those looking to validate their market, scale manufacturing and seek investment should apply now; programming will begin in May 2017.
The 2017 program is based on success and learnings from the past three years of programming. Here are some of the key highlights to look for from Futureworks Incubator programming this year:
- Workshop Series: From May 2017 through December 2017, Futureworks Incubator will host a monthly (at times bi-monthly) workshop series on what you need to know to launch your own product startup ranging from business planning and exploration of business models to design and design for manufacturing to legal to prototyping and understanding users to marketing and manufacturing. Every accepted startup or entrepreneur will receive a roadmap with recommendations for activities, events and workshops most relevant to them. There will be ten workshops in total. Preference will be given to those that apply to be a part of the program and we will reserve a small number for the general entrepreneurial public as well.
- Summits: Each cohort of startups and entrepreneurs will be invited to a Summit – a day-long event designed specifically for their cohort. Idea-stage participants will prototype and bring ideas into the physical world amidst new materials, machines and design experts. Those seeking market validation will create a plan and connect with Mentors and resources to help them achieve it. Those seeking to scale and manufacture will have access to resources about manufacturing and local manufacturers in NYC along with ideas and people to support strategic growth. There will be three Summits in total, one for each cohort. Attendance at your cohort-based Summit is required in order to get invited to closing and other showcase events throughout the program.
- Cohort Programming: Depending on your cohort, there will be specific programming available to help you to connect and growth with a cohort of companies at a similar stage. Many of the workshops provide opportunities for cohorts to interact with each other and to create an interwoven experience amongst startups at different stages in the lifecycle.
- Access to Mentors: Alumni companies along with experts in design, business, legal, manufacturing and storytelling make up our network of Mentors. Our Mentors are invested in and eager to grow the NYC hardware ecosystem. They have started and sold businesses, have successfully launched and scaled a product and company, they have received awards, they have established entirely new markets and much more. They are bound in their commitment to help NYC-based hardware and product entrepreneurs along their journey to success.
- Additional Events and Showcases: Throughout the Incubator experience, participating entrepreneurs and startups will have access to opportunities to showcase their company and product alongside other Futureworks Incubator companies. In addition, Futureworks Incubator partners, such as Kickstarter, are planning exclusive events for the Futureworks Incubator community. The program will host two high-profile closing events to celebrate your completing a cycle of the program and to setup your network of supporters, potential buyers, partners and funders.
Futureworks Incubator is part of the broader Futureworks NYC portfolio of investments by New York City Economic Development Corporation, the City’s primary engine for economic development, charged with leveraging the City’s assets to drive growth, create jobs, and improve quality of life. Program operations are led by SecondMuse, and Imagination in Space. If you are interested in getting involved in the program, please reach out to [email protected]
Who is the ideal applicant?
As long as you are working on a hardware startup that intends to manufacture physical products in NYC, then we have a place for you! We accept startups and entrepreneurs in every stage along the journey. We have three distinct tracks of programming for each of the cohorts: the Idea Stage Cohort, the Market Validation Cohort and the Scaling and Manufacturing Cohort. Read below to see where you may fit best:
The Idea Stage Cohort:
The Idea Stage Cohort has people of all levels and experiences. Some are first-time entrepreneurs and others are serial entrepreneurs working out a new idea. The goal in the Idea Stage Cohort is to develop a concept over the incubation period and create a rough prototype and to decide whether you want to pursue a business around this idea.
The Market Validation Cohort:
The Market Validation Cohort allows those with already-working prototypes and an early business to get to the next level through refining a product and building a business. The goal of the Market Validation Cohort is to identify the best product/market fit, establish a solid business framework and prepare to manufacture in NYC.
The Scaling and Manufacturing Cohort:
Those in the Scaling and Manufacturing Cohort have already established a business and have a product in the market. Members of this cohort are looking to have greater impact, connect with new manufacturers, refine their manufacturing process, reach more or new customers, and/or attract new investors.
Your Cohort will be your family and your support along the way. No matter which Cohort you fall into, you will have the opportunity to connect with and interact with entrepreneurs and startups from other Cohorts. In addition to fitting into one of our three Cohorts, Futureworks Incubator entrepreneurs and startup teams tend to have a community-oriented mindset to business. At Futureworks Incubator, we believe ideas, resources and expertise can come from anywhere and anyone; the success of our alumni are successes we celebrate.
To apply, applicants must be at least 18 years old and be a student in, resident of or have a business located in New York City. Only one application per business or product will be accepted.
If I applied or participated in the past, may I apply again?
Yes! With the transition from Next Top Makers to Futureworks Incubator, we are offering more opportunities to learn from, connect with and engage in an expanded set of materials and experiences highlighting people, places and resources relevant to your business. The short answer is: If you think you have something to gain and contribute to the Futureworks Incubator, absolutely apply.
Are there any requirements to participate in the program? What restrictions apply?
The program focuses on your commitment to and engagement in New York City. The program will feature products and companies that fit within one or multiple of the following categories:
- Made in NYC
- Designed in NYC
- Solves an NYC Problem
- Interested in Local Production
Please note that the following types of product are excluded from participating in the program:
- Consumer non-durable good (including but not limited to food; beverages; garments, shoes and other textile goods; and health and beauty products such as cosmetics, medicines, nutritional supplements and vitamins)
- Agricultural product
- Media product (including, but not limited to books, publications, music, photographs, video, and film)
- Sex toy
- Chemical, liquid or gas
- Permanent structure
- Raw material
- Art, sculpture, or painting, unless the Product is reproducible, scalable, and has functionality beyond purely artistic purposes
What are the most important dates of the program?
April 10th: Application closes. Key program dates are included below: (*indicates mandatory)
May 17 (4:30 – 9pm): Opening Workshop and Onboarding of Startups*
June 30 (all day): Summit for Market Validation Startups*
July 19 (6:30-9:30pm): Workshop on Finance and Operations
Week of July 24th: Onboarding for Idea Stage entrepreneurs*
August 15: Workshop on Connecting Your Startup to Manufacturers
August 17: Workshop on Designing for Manufacturing
September 12: Workshop on Understanding Users through Prototyping
September 14: Workshop on Business Models for Startups
September 22: Summit for Scale and Manufacturing*
October 17: Workshop on Fulfillment and Logistics
October 19: Workshop on Legal for Product Startups
October 21: Summit on Prototyping for Idea Stage Startups*
November 15: Workshop on Marketing & Storytelling for Product Startups
December 6: Workshop on Fundraising for Product Startups
Closing events to showcase Futureworks Incubator companies will take place in December 2017 and January 2018. To be invited to present, Futureworks Incubator companies must attend relevant Summit + a minimum of two relevant Workshops.
What is expected of me if I am accepted into the program?
You are required to participate in a virtual or in-person orientation, at least two Workshops and one Summit relevant to your cohort. Depending on your cohort assignment, there may be other required activities and events to be considered part of the program. Idea stage entrepreneurs will participate from August through December 2017, the Market Validation cohort will run from May 2017 through December 2017, and the Scale and Manufacture cohort will run from May 2017 through January 2018.
Who will be selecting Futureworks Incubator startups and entrepreneurs?
Startups and participating entrepreneurs will need to submit an application via the program website. The organizing team (SecondMuse, Imagination in Space and NYCEDC) will assess whether or not applicants meet requirements (see ‘Who can participate in Futureworks Incubator?’ below). Applicants will also be considered for general fit with the program. Accepted companies and entrepreneurs will be assigned to a cohort based on their answers to application questions. A phone interview and/or in-person pitch may be required to determine the best fit. NYCEDC will have final approval over the startups and entrepreneurs invited to participate in the program.
What is the criteria being used to select Futureworks Incubator entrepreneurs and/or startups?
Futureworks entrepreneurs and/or startups will be evaluated and selected for cohorts based on the following criteria:
- Which cohort is the best for you? We will consider your self-evaluation and review at the following
- Stage of product development (used to determine which cohort is the best fit for you)
- Stage of business (also used to determine which cohort is the best fit for you)
- Team (background, how many team members, skill sets, experience, etc. to assess cohort fit)
- Fit with program including orientation to learning, willingness to be part of a community, availability to participate (refer to the question regarding requirements and restrictions listed above
- NYC relevance (are you, your teammates or your company based in NYC; do you want to build or make your product here)
If I apply to the Futureworks Incubator, will my IP be safe?
In preparing your application, you should be aware that as long as your idea is not disclosed to others, or is disclosed only in confidence, you may have some limited Intellectual Property protection over your idea. This limited protection can be jeopardized by disclosing your idea. Accordingly, you should be aware that:
- You are solely responsible for protecting any rights in your invention. If you apply for the program before any Intellectual Property rights are established, you risk jeopardizing your ability to later obtain protection. We prefer that you take steps to protect your interest in your submission before submitting to us. Accordingly, we recommend:
- Reviewing the USPTO information for inventors (link to http://www.uspto.gov/inventors/index.jsp).
- Consulting with a competent patent attorney prior to your submission. If you would like a recommendation for an attorney to contact, please contact us at [email protected]
What are the submission terms for Futureworks Incubator?
Applicants for the Futureworks Incubator must agree to the following:
I hereby agree and acknowledge that: (i) I am submitting to the Futureworks Incubator program only non-confidential and public domain materials in the sections of the form marked as NON-CONFIDENTIAL; (ii) I am authorized to submit this response to the Futureworks Incubator program and indemnify all Futureworks Incubator program participants, partners and organizers from any and all claims related to my intellectual property; (iii) I retain full rights over respective intellectual property; and (iv) I grant Futureworks Incubator program participants, partners and organizers the right to share and distribute the NON-CONFIDENTIAL portions of my submission materials for review purposes and for the marketing and promotion of the Futureworks Incubator program.
Submissions for the Futureworks Incubation program may be rejected at the sole discretion of the program organizers, either in part or in their entirety, if it is deemed to be obscene, defamatory, likely to incite violence or illegal activity, in violation of any third-party’s rights, or is otherwise deemed to be inappropriate. The program organizers reserve the right, without liability, to cancel, suspend, amend or modify the program, or any part of it, at any time.
Can I submit my application in a language other than English?
All applications must be submitted in English. Given this is a community-based program, it is critical that participants have a strong proficiency in the English language in order to engage with and benefit from others in the community.
Are there any costs associated with the program?
There are no costs other than your time associated with the program. You may, however, have access to benefits and perks through the program such as printing credits, opportunities to attend and showcase at trade shows, access to coworking and workshop space, etc.
What’s unique about the Futureworks Incubator program?
In short – the spirit of collaboration! Futureworks Incubator is an unprecedented citywide initiative to support the advanced manufacturing and hardware ecosystem: startups, innovators, manufacturers, service providers, institutions of higher learning, etc. More than 50 organizations and individuals were consulted for the initial design of the program of Next Top Makers in 2013. Over the past several years, the community has continued to grow and evolve with changes in technology, funding and the hardware and manufacturing landscapes of the city.
If I am only in NYC part-time (i.e. I am a student) can I apply?
Of course! In fact, we would encourage you to apply so that you can be a part of the Futureworks Incubator community. As long as you are in NYC for key program dates and have an interest or plan to build your business in the city, we encourage you to apply!