Virtual Business Incubation

Best practices in virtual business incubation services




InfoDev is a technology and innovation-led development finance program of The World Bank and IFC. The program supports global sharing of information and communication technologies for development (ICT4D).


Identify successful virtual incubator services and provide insights into their potential to improve the cost-effectiveness and reach of business incubation services.



The best practices research identified ways to move away from brick and mortar incubators to a more cost-effective model with greater reach, especially to rural areas.

This identification study has led to the establishment of InfoDev virtual incubators in Kenya and Vietnam.

Virtual business incubation services can be delivered in six ways: on-site, through a website, through 1-on-1 ICT based exchange, through virtual communities, and through an online crowd.


Road map created for low cost delivery of business development services over large regions in the world.

The lessons can be used by new business incubators (including virtual ones), as well as existing conventional and/or virtual business incubators.


Conducted best practice study to identify the most successful and innovative virtual business incubation services and tools worldwide.

Researched 12 virtual incubator models in India, Chile, Costa Rica and the Netherlands as detailed case studies.

Identified five innovative and successful virtual incubators and analysed their impact, delivery mechanisms and financial sustainability in order to replicate their success elsewhere.


Virtual business incubators can serve a wider geographical region and are more cost efficient than the traditional brick & mortar business incubators. Three service concepts were identified with variations in service focus, target group, outreach, service provision, funding, and revenue models. “Hand-holder” incubators focus on offering business development services, especially training and mentoring. “Network boosters” focus on bringing entrepreneurs, investors, volunteers, and service providers together and helping them provide added value to each other‘s businesses. “Seed capital providers” provide seed investment capital, combined with short or long-term mentoring support. The final report can be found at Virtual Incubators.