How to select your incubatee teams.
The selection procedure of start-ups wanting to join the incubator depends on the incubator set-up (e.g. staff knowledge, funding, stakeholders, KPIs). In addition, it also depends on how many applicant-teams you get.
As an incubator you need to identify your funnel (source) for applicants. Do you only have one source or do applicant teams come from multiple places? Your need to think about nourishing your funnel (perhaps almost treat it like a sales funnel).
If you are working with young student teams, you are looking for teams with the potential to improve. Such teams may not know enough to understand how to run a business or even how to build a game product. But, because your incubator is associated with an educational institution, this is acceptable (and is actually what you are looking for).
Be aware that this relationship between incubator and university might not always be smooth. Due to the different incentives, friction is possible. E.g. if teams join the incubator too early and start companies they might fail graduating. Thus it is in the interest of a university to keep students within their reach for as long as possible. In contrast, incubators want to catch teams very early to start teaching relevant skills. This might interfere with a university’s mission.
“Splinters” / More Experienced Teams
Often incubators that work with more established teams (with industry experienced veterans), demand much more proof-of-ability before accepting teams. Typically, you will demand that teams write applications or come to application meetings.
This is where they must pitch their business and product plan. Usually, industry-specialist advisors are called in to help evaluate their application.
Number of Applications & Criteria
Obviously a key issue is that your incubator needs start-ups to survive. Over time it may vary how many start-ups apply for your incubator. Sometimes incubators will want / need to accept all applicants because they need new teams. In this situation you may loosen your criteria. But if you have too many applicants, you may wish to increase your requirements, such that you can choose only the best.
As a new incubator and to get going, less strict criteria are advisable. Though most incubators have strict application criteria for joining the incubator. They have a structured application process that teams need to go through. Teams will need to have or provide certain documents or items (business plan, etc.) for a successful application.
If an incubator’s staff does not know much about the game industry, they might want to go with more formal criteria. In general, it is good to have a well-defined application process. This helps to transfer knowledge to e.g. new staff. It is also easier for e.g. stakeholders to deal with formal application forms and to avoid the accusation of bias against the incubator.