Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators
Interactive resources for incubators and accelerators

Dealing With Failure

Sometimes people just aren’t the right fit for the type of program you are trying to run. It may be because they aren’t willing to pivot towards a more success pathway for their business, they aren’t able to participate in the way that is expected of them, or they have simply realised that the program isn’t for them, and they want to leave. These aren’t easy situations to manage, but they do happen and it helps to be prepared.


This section looks at how to handle these situations in a way that respects your program, the individuals in question as well as the rest of your cohort. It provides some strategies for minimising the risk of disruption to your program if this occurs, how to track engagement to see the early warning signs, and tips for how to interact with someone once you have identified that there is an issue.

Minimising the Risk of Disruption

Trying to gauge a person’s commitment and willingness to participate in your program during the selection process is the best way to minimise the risk that someone will either drop out of or need to be removed from your cohort halfway through. This isn’t always an easy thing to predict, however, and there are some simple things you can do to help minimise the impact of someone leaving your cohort.

It can be handy to have some backup ventures who can step in to fill the empty slot if someone wants to leave.

It is likely that you had one or two applicants to your program that you were really interested in supporting but who just didn’t make the final cohort. Keep them on a shortlist of sorts so you know exactly who you would go to if a place in your program suddenly opened up, for whatever reason.

Practical Tip

Getting your cohort members to provide a deposit to participate in your cohort can help to create a sense of value in their participation in the program.

Tie the deposit to a commitment to attending a minimum number of events and contact points throughout the program and refund it in full once your program comes to a close.

Tracking Cohort Engagement

You want to be aware of any potential issues within your cohort before they begin to affect the experience of the broader program.

The best way to keep on top of this is to make sure you are tracking the participation of your cohort members throughout the program.

Are they showing up to meetings? Is the same person consistently engaging or is it a different person every time? Are they prepared? Do they ask questions?

Practical Tip

Map out your participation expectations and requirements at the beginning of your program and share those with the cohort in the form of a Code of Conduct or commitment.

This will ensure that your cohort knows what is expected of them, and will help you to be consistent in what you are tracking and measuring.

If a cohort member is consistently not meeting these requirements,  your tracking data will help you to identify this early-on so you can address it before it becomes an issue.

Having Difficult Conversations

If you find yourself in a situation where a member of your cohort is no longer a good fit for your program (for whatever reason) it is time to have a difficult conversation.

In some cases, the entrepreneur will make this realisation themselves and come to you to discuss it. These are generally much cleaner interaction as you can have an open and honest conversation about what is best for them and make a decision that is mutually beneficial for them as well as the broader program. In these instances, you can often share this decision openly with the rest of the cohort and explain why changes are being made.

In other cases, the entrepreneur will be either unaware of or unwilling to admit that a change needs to be made. These can be much messier interactions, especially if the entrepreneur’s conduct has already begun to affect the experience of others in your cohort. In these more difficult cases, it is just as important to be open and transparent about the cohort member’s options.


It is normal and understandable that you will become emotionally attached to the entrepreneurs in your cohort.

However, if a company continues to stay in your program when they are not performing, it will impact the overall value for everyone else in your cohort. You will also be failing to create value for the company that you want to help.

Letting an entrepreneur go from your program sometimes be the best and most generous thing you can do for them, and for your broader cohort.

You can:

  • Have an initial conversation with them about the issue or issues that need to be addressed
  • Allow them to respond to the feedback and provide their perspective
  • Outline the key milestones going forward that they are expected to hit in order to remain in the program
  • Schedule regular checks to track their progress against these milestones and explain that they will not be able to continue in the program if these milestones are not met
  • Discuss how they would like this change to be communicated to the cohort. Make sure they are comfortable with or at least aware that you will be updating others on the changes (if appropriate)
  • Have an open and honest discussion with the cohort about why someone is changing their role in the program, or leaving the program entirely
  • Be as honest as you can whilst still respecting the dignity and wishes of the entrepreneur


    The Difference Incubator’s (TDi) mission is to awaken the possibility of doing good and making money by returning to the roots of business. They work across Australia and the Pacific with entrepreneurs and businesses to create sustainable business models that create measurable impact. Since 2014 they have accelerated over 400 businesses, from early stage entrepreneurs shaping their idea to those growing and seeking investment. TDi combine their significant experience in entrepreneurship, finance and investment, innovation, design, development and measurement with a flexible and relational approach that builds capacity and sustainable results.




    Invest2Innovate (i2i) supports startup communities in growth markets, and has been operating in Pakistan since 2011. i2i supports entrepreneurs via the i2i Accelerator, an annual four-month program that provides business support and access to mentors and investment. Since 2012, i2i has accelerated 41 startups in Pakistan, which have gone on to raise over $6M, scaled their businesses, created over 1500 jobs, and deepened their social and economic impact in the country. i2i has licensed and customised its curriculum to support a number of initiatives, including the National Incubation Centre Islamabad, the Grameenphone Accelerator in Bangladesh, and trainings for youth in Pakistan, Ukraine and Nepal.





    Villgro Innovations Foundation is India’s oldest and one of the world’s largest social enterprise incubators. Established in 2001, Villgro supports innovative, impactful and successful for-profit enterprises who are tackling some of the most pressing challenges in the developing world – access to healthcare, education and modernising agricultural practices. So far, Villgro has supported over 150 social enterprises with $4.5 million in investments. These enterprises have created over 40,000 jobs, secured $17 million in follow-on funding, and impacted 19 million lives. Presently, Villgro’s unique incubation model is being replicated in Kenya, Philippines and Vietnam.





    Village Capital builds bridges for entrepreneurs who are creating an inclusive and sustainable world. Their programs connect high potential, early-stage entrepreneurs with the people, institutions, and capital they need to succeed. Since 2009, Village Capital has supported more than 1,000 entrepreneurs through their programs, and partnered with affiliated investment funds, including VilCap Investments, that have invested seed capital in more than 90 program graduates. Through their VilCap Communities program, Village Capital provides an all-inclusive solution for program design, management, and implementation of a venture development program.




    Uncharted is the next generation of accelerator that uses the power of an entrepreneurial accelerator to address major social and environmental issues like the future of food, urban poverty, and hate and discrimination. They scale and connect organisations in three ways. 1. Accelerate: Resourcing organisations with mentors, funders, and customised training. 2. Connect: Bringing together ventures who are all tackling the same problem so they can share insights and find collaboration opportunities. 3. Empower: Giving power away and empowering others to change the world, whether through one-off specialised trainings or licensing their world-class curriculum.



Designing an Impactful Program

How to design your incubator or accelerator program to be truly impactful