Given that incubators are focused on early-stage companies, how far along should a startup be before it applies for consideration by an incubator? How strong must the team (and concept, plan, etc.) be in order for an incubator to consider a startup without a functioning product or sales/traction?
We currently have a kick-ass SaaS idea, a strong business plan, well-designed website comps, detailed tech specs, and compelling survey results from our target consumers. (Let's just assume all of this is true, even though you're naturally wondering if this assessment is objective.) We have a team of three -- two multi-talented business people, and one engineer -- all with graduate degrees from fancy schools. We each have varying amounts/types of experience working for different types of tech companies, but we haven't started any ourselves. (We realize that our educational credentials could actually be a deterrent if we don't have relevant street cred.)
A. Build our beta site and get some customers BEFORE we apply to an incubator?
B. Apply NOW to an incubator, with only what I've listed above?
We know that the strength of the team and traction are the biggest considerations for investors, but we're wondering if we already have what it takes to approach an incubator. Why are we considering this, you ask? If we get accepted into incubator now, and make good use of the funding and services offered, we could have a kick-ass beta product out to the world in two to three months, we'd have the cash to market it properly, and we'd have automatic access to a pool of investors for growth. If we do it on our own, it would probably take six months or more to launch the product, and it would be completely bootstrapped (i.e., it would take even longer to reach the public and get sales).
What do you think? Are there any other issues or alternatives we should consider? Are we ready for an incubator or should we wait?
Thank you in advance for your advice!