Pre‐incubation relates to the overall activities needed to support the potential entrepreneur in developing his business idea, business model and business plan, to boost the chances to arrive to an effective start‐up creation. It usually implies a first assessment of the idea, training, and direct one to‐one assistance necessary to put the client in the conditions to write a fully complete business plan.
Incubation concerns the support given to the entrepreneur from the start‐up to the expansion phase. Typically this is a mid‐term process, lasting usually for the first three years of activity of the newly established company, which are the years in which it is safe to say whether the new venture is successful and has a good chance to develop into a fully mature company. The actions activated generally are access to finance, direct coaching and mentoring services, as well as hosting services and specific training. Therefore physical incubation, although a very important service, is a subset of the overall incubation process.
Post‐incubation, relates to the activities to be carried out when the company has reached the maturity phase, and therefore is ready to walk on its own feet. It is the time when, If it has been physically incubated, the company will leave the incubator. Various services might still be needed by the SME for example to increment its sales or improve its productive processes, such as internationalization services or innovation introduction through scouting and detection activities.