Birds Of A Different Feather

Four incubators that are setting the pace

Advanced Technology Development Center

Located on the Georgia Institute of Technology's Atlanta campus , the ATDC has graduated more than 100 high-tech companies since its founding in 1981. Some 88% of those grads are still in business or have been acquired. But getting in isn't easy. General Manager Tony Antoniades receives about 150 applications a year for 10 to12 spots. In 2001 the incubator started VentureLab, a program that matches Georgia Tech faculty who have innovations with serial entrepreneurs and executives. Last summer serial entrepreneur Jim Stratigos became CEO of Jacket Micro Devices, launched by four Georgia Tech engineering faculty. He has since helped the wireless chipmaker bring in $8 million in venture financing.

Intelligent Systems

Norcross (Ga.)-based Intelligent Systems is a public company that invests in early-stage technology ventures, including about 25% of the companies in its incubator. The incubator, which opened in 1990, houses about 16 to 20 companies, with space for offices and light manufacturing. Tenants get below-market rates on 300 to 5,000 square feet of space, and most graduate in three or four years. The incubator's four-member senior management team has served on the boards of 15 public and private companies, and worked as CEOs at four companies. They now offer plenty of free advice to tenants. "We consider it part of our investment," says Director Bonnie Herron. It's paying off: Some 75% of the graduates are still in business or have been acquired.

William M. Factory Small Business Incubator

This Tacoma (Wash.) mixed-use incubator moved into a new 20,000-square-foot facility in September, 2003. "We usually have five to six companies that wait months for an office to open," says Executive Director Tim Strege -- even though space in the incubator runs about $6 per square foot more than the market rate. The incubator has 5 full-time staff and 12 engineering, marketing, and accounting consultants. Of the 100 companies that have graduated since 1994, 78% are still in business or have been acquired. All tenant companies have to sign a First Source Hiring Agreement, pledging to try to fill jobs with local residents. So far, the incubator has created more than 1,000 jobs in Tacoma and the surrounding area.

Linux Collaboration Center

A highly specialized incubator sponsored by Panasonic Corp.'s Digital Concepts Center (PDCC), the San Jose, Calif.-based Linux Collaboration Center hosts a handful of tenants that have the potential to form partnerships with Panasonic. Director Brad McManus looks for companies that are already venture-backed (which other incubators find grounds for disqualification) or have the potential to land investors soon. Tenants pay a monthly rent of $250 per employee and work closely with engineers from Panasonic's $5.8 billion research and development department to expand their technologies into Panasonic products. "Figuring out how to deal with such a huge corporation is difficult; that's where we come in," says McManus. One recent success is Droplet Technologies, which makes video-compression software that Panasonic uses in its security cameras. Between 30% and 50% of tenants end up working with Panasonic, but they are free to do business with other companies.

    Before it's here, it's on the Bloomberg Terminal.