Silicon Valley startup incubators are nothing new. Y Combinator is the biggest of the lot, and has helped the likes of Airbnb and Dropbox become the sensations they are. And now Uber’s Garrett Camp has tossed his hat in the ring.

Generally, how incubators work is a team of two or more submit their idea to an incubator program, which evaluates the project’s merits, conducts interviews, then invites the most promising projects to participate in a lengthy mentorship.  They’re given seed money, advice, and ultimately meet with investors who can get the project funded and off the ground.

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Too Big for it’s britches?

It’s easy to get lost in the shuffle, and unless you’re teacher’s pet, you’ll never stand out. Y Combinator has grown by such leaps and bounds, that their class sizes now top 100. If we’ve learned anything from our grade school teachers, it’s that it’s just too difficult to give that many pupils your undivided attention.

Enter Expa Labs

Expa Labs is a new startup looking for new startups, backed by the likes of Uber’s Garrett Camp. As the story goes, Expa will focus on smaller groups of eight who will be mentored directly by one of Expa’s five founders.

Selected participants are given a cool $500,000 to build their team and develop their idea over the 180-day program. You’re given office space right alongside the five founders, so you can freely bounce ideas off them and soak up their knowledge like a sponge.

Now, before you get too excited, getting into the program isn’t a ticket to easy street. Only a fraction of selected participants will receive venture funding, and fewer still will succeed as viable companies.

But if your idea is good, then the cream will rise to the top.

What’s Next: Your billion dollar idea realized

Incubators are interested in forward-thinking innovations. They’re looking for people with big ideas, so that doesn’t necessarily mean the next flash-in-the-pan app or gizmo.

Startup incubators like Y Combinator and Expa Labs are in the business of making money, and yes, they’ll take a piece of your pie.

In Expa’s case, they’ll retain a 20% stake in your company, but without them, you may never get your startup off the ground.

As they say, 100% of nothing still equals nothing, and if Expa’s seed money is your best shot at launching your startup, then go for it: submit an application and give them their 20%. They’ll have more than earned it, if it means helping realize your dream.

What’s your take?

Do you have the next great startup idea? Have you applied to Y Combinator, Expa or the like? What was your experience? Let us know in the comments below.

featured images: Xconomy.com, MichiganRadio.org

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