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Notable Startups to Come from Incubator Programs

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Business incubators have churned out a lot of successful startups. While not all startups engaged in incubator programs are successful, some startups have experienced explosive growth from the help of an incubator. You may even be familiar with some startups to have come from incubator programs and the work they’ve done in the time since they’ve worked with an incubator. Today we’ll discuss four startups that came to success out of two of the most widely known incubators. PillPack and Sphero both came out of Techstars while Genius and Dropbox were members of Y Combinator’s program.


TJ Parker and Elliott Cohen started PillPack in 2013 at Techstars Boston. In starting PillPack, their mission was to alleviate the complexity of managing multiple prescriptions and simplify the entire pharmacy process. During their time in TechStars’ three month program they raised $4 million in seed funding, followed by a total of $117 million in Series A through Series D funding. Perhaps the most notable of PillPack’s accomplishments, aside from working continuously towards their mission, is their acquisition in 2018 by e-commerce giant Amazon for $1 billion.


Sphero started at Techstars in 2010 with a seemingly simple idea that would ultimately prove popular among many: a robotic sphere that could be controlled with a smartphone and used as a toy. The popularity of the idea allowed Sphero to create a BB-8 (from “Star Wars”) branded Sphero toy after a stint in the Disney accelerator in 2015 and secure over $90 million in funding as of 2016. Beyond their popularity as toys, Sphero’s robots can also act as tools for education, encouraging STEAM-based learning curriculum in grade schools.


Genius, started in 2009 as “RapExegesis”, and later renamed Rap Genius, joined Y Combinator in 2011 as a site to annotate rap lyrics so people could better understand the songs they listened to. Eventually, Genius moved beyond rap annotation to every genre of music, poetry, news and the Bible, before dialing in its focus purely on music. The same year it joined Y Combinator, Genius secured $1.8 million in seed funding, followed by $15 million in funding in 2012 and an additional $40 million in funding in 2014. Now, Genius enjoys increased exposure through annotation integration with Spotify.


Drew Houston founded Dropbox, and shortly joined the Y Combinator program, in 2007 when he struggled to find a cofounder. 4 years later, the popular digital file storage solution obtained funding from venture capitalists at a valuation of $4 billion. This growth, while astounding, is even more significant as Dropbox went on to become the first Y Combinator company to go public in 2018 with a valuation shortly after its IPO of more than $11 billion.

Further Reading:

Techstars Startup Success Rate Sets

Y Combinator Top Companies List


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