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The Virtual Incubation Network





The Virtual Incubation Network is a two-year Charles Stewart Mott Foundation grant-funded initiative led by the American Association of Community Colleges and 11 community colleges. The effort encourages the creation of more start-up businesses through virtual business incubation services and supports by community colleges and their partners.

The development of the Virtual Incubator Network recognizes that incubation services need not depend on a traditional brick-and-mortar facility. Instead the new network will "test-drive” new delivery mechanisms that include support provided at the business site and hybrid in-person and technology processes. The AACC hopes its member colleges will eventually be able to bring this work to scale at hundreds of community colleges, particularly in geographically isolated, depressed and hard-to-serve communities where they are needed most.

As communities across the country revitalize their local economies with entrepreneurship and small business growth, they often call on community colleges and their partners to provide skilled training, educational services and guidance to build out innovative ideas. Many colleges establish small business incubators to nurture companies through the most challenging start-up stages of development, with an ultimate aim of increasing jobs and revenue in the local community. The development of the VIN recognizes that these services need not depend on a traditional brick-and-mortar facility. Instead the VIN's new delivery mechanisms include support provided at the business site and hybrid in-person and technology processes. The tools created by the VIN will help community colleges grow entrepreneur talent while offering more flexible delivery to existing small business owners and start-up businesses leaders.

Audience-Focused Tools

The toolkit will support community colleges in building and sustaining a virtual incubation and economic development effort. Its tools are tailored for the needs of three primary audiences:

  • All Audiences: " A Tools” are targeted to all audiences interested in virtual incubation, community colleges and workforce and economic change agents.
  • College Leadership: " L Tools” are targeted to college leadership (chancellors, presidents and deans) who want to know the fundamental financing and staffing needs and rationale for a virtual incubator. These tools discuss strategies to embed an entrepreneurial spirit into the campus and community. We ask that leaders read them, commit to the effort, allocate resources to support this on their campus and pass these through to their core team.
  • College Staff: " S Tools,” which comprise the bulk of the toolkit, are meant as tactical tools for the staff who will be working on a day-to-day basis to create a viable virtual incubator. These tools are intended to provide specifics on virtual incubator structure, partnerships, buy-in, evaluation and leverage. Some of the S tools are specifically designed for college staff to both use and pass through to the entrepreneurs.

Relevance of the Tool

As your college embarks on a bold and bright virtual incubation effort, it is important to note that the VIN Toolkit is not a complete cookbook for success, but rather the compilation of the most current, varying and successful virtual incubation elements drawn from community colleges across the country. Colleges will need to review the complete tool set to determine the ones that fit their needs appropriately.

The Virtual Incubator Initiative will be implemented by AACC in collaboration with the National Association for Community College Entrepreneurship (NACCE), and through partnerships with the U.S. Small Business Administration including with the national network of Small Business Development Centers, many of which are operated on community college campuses.

  • Rio Salado College, Phoenix, AZ
  • Long Beach City College, Long Beach, CA
  • Indian River State College, Fort Pierce, FL
  • North Iowa Area Community College, Mason City, IA
  • Mott Community College, Flint, MI
  • Southeast Community College, Lincoln, NE
  • White Mountains Community College, Berlin, NH
  • Burlington County College, Burlington, NJ
  • Santa Fe Community College, Santa Fe, NM
  • Lorain County Community College, Elyria, OH
  • Northeast Wisconsin Technical College, Green Bay, WI

About AACC

The American Association of Community Colleges is a national organization located in Washington, D.C., that represents the nation's close to 1,200 community, junior and technical colleges. The colleges represent the largest and fastest-growing sector of higher education and currently enroll almost half of all U.S. undergraduates.

About the Charles Stewart Mott Foundation

The Charles Stewart Mott Foundation, established in 1926 by an automotive pioneer, is a private philanthropy committed to supporting projects that promote a just, equitable and sustainable society. It supports nonprofit programs throughout the U.S. and, on a limited geographic basis, internationally. Grantmaking is focused in four programs: Civil Society, Environment, Flint Area and Pathways Out of Poverty. Offices are located in Flint, Michigan; metropolitan Detroit; Johannesburg (South Africa); and London. The Foundation, with 2009 year-end assets of approximately $2.1 billion, made 469 grants totaling $109.3 million. For more information, visit

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