Venture builder has been a rising movement in the startup ecosystem. It is not only a different business model to create new venture companies in a more efficient manner, but also an excellent platform to nurture professional entrepreneurs and to develop a culture or a community to support local entrepreneurial activities. Compared with a typical startup incubation or acceleration program, Venture building platform is different in terms of the business model, and more importantly, its underlying philosophy.
A typical incubation program is like a MBA program. They are a school for start-ups. After the application and admission process, the startups will be put through classes, trainings, and consultancy to get their ideas refined and pitch to the selected investors. With or without investors’ money in the startups’ account, they will “graduate”. The secret sauce lies in the inherent good quality of the applicants. To succeed, incubator needs to develop an outstanding brand name to attract the best candidates. Like a venture capitalist, by investing into a pool of good quality candidates, the chance of hitting the jackpot will be higher.
The venture building platform takes a different approach in starting a new business. They never “graduate” a Startup, but aim at building companies in succession and growing with them. They have two important pillars for their operation and growth. They gather the venture building resources and the entrepreneurial talents. They pull business ideas within their own network of resources and form teams to develop them. By focusing in one particular domain, the venture teams have strong synergies. While driving their own ventures, they are also bringing in more resources, networks and talents to support other projects. The talents with increasing venture building experience are tightly knitted through previous and current venture projects. They are able to re-use infrastructure and best practices across different projects. The venture building platform is growing with its Startups.
It will be very interesting if we can go deeper and understand the difference in terms of the underlying philosophy of an incubation program and a venture building platform. Human activities can be categorized into two types of games. The first one is finite game. The other is infinite game. The finite game is played for the purpose of winning. The infinite game is played for the purpose of continuing. The finite game is always played within boundaries, such as space, time, rules, etc. It is played to win a title. On the other hand, the infinite game is played at the boundary. It is played to continue and it is a self-discovery and regeneration process. Debating and chatting are both speaking, but they are playing different games. Debating is playing a finite game under certain rules and time, and there will be a winner recognized by all the players at the end. But Chatting is playing an infinite game and it is to continue the conversation. When friends are chatting and reach the boundary of a particular topic, they breakdown the boundary by starting a new topic so that the chatting continues.
Similarly, a typical incubation program is playing a finite game where there are rules for admission, program time, and Startups will graduate to end the game with some winners who raise funds from the investors. While venture building platform is playing an infinite game. With venture building resources and entrepreneurial talents, the platform is to continuously create new venture companies. And for the talents, it is to develop their career as entrepreneur for the long run by keeping creating business ventures with others in the platform and getting better and better in doing so. An incubation program is to train the startups against any surprise. However, a venture building platform is to nurture startups and entrepreneurs for the surprise, during which the platform is growing as its startups and entrepreneurs are acquiring new resources, establishing new connection and finding new opportunities.
While both incubation program and venture building platform are to create new venture companies, finite game and infinite game is the fundamental difference in their underlying philosophy. It is also a different mindset, a different view of the world and a different value system for other endeavours of our life.
Li Wei, The 4 fundamental business models of incubators, Singapore, e27, April 2018
 Jame P. Carse, Finite Game and Infinite Game: A vision of life and possibility, New York: Ballantine Books, 1986