What I Learned from a day at a Startup Incubator!

Alishba Imran
4 min readOct 31, 2019


Creative Destruction Lab (CDL) is a program for emerging science and technology-based companies to grow like crazy by 1. getting mentorship, 2. getting capital. The program has an objectives-based mentoring process with the goal of maximizing equity value creation.

I had the awesome opportunity as part of the High School Girls Program to sit in on the first session of the 2019–20 cohort in Toronto. This meant a chance to sit in on important meetings, meeting industry leaders, startups and gaining insight into the fast-paced entrepreneurship world.

Room filled with some of the biggest decision-makers in the tech industry!

It’s crazzyyy how quickly our world is changing and the immense amount of impact new technologies like AI, Blockchain, & Quantum Computing will really have on our future!

On top of that, new startups are looking at solving important problems like supply chain, disease diagnosis, and carbon credits just to name a few with these technologies. As our progress stays exponential and continues to compound over time, we’ll see crazy things like AGI, Quantum Computers & more main-stream applications of Blockchain entering the scene.

Overall, CDL was an experience that for me reinforced the importance of learning about the world, constantly building things and studying the future. I got to first hand see how the world is changing at an exponential rate.

Curious to learn more?

Here are some of my personal observations, key takeaways and action items from the day!

Some of my Key Learnings:

  • Develop your mind to ask thoughtful questions, & quickly draw implications. During the 1-on-1’s my mentor was able to quickly hear the ideas, progress and find the gaps of each startup. He did this by asking unique questions that the group hadn’t thought of beforehand. I think having frameworks in your toolbox for asking questions, identifying problems and solutions is so underrated but is such a helpful skill to have!
  • Here is what I’ve observed on this so far:
  1. Understand the problem they’re solving really well. Some of this has to do with how the startup pitches but the rest is your ability to put your past knowledge together to come up with a reasonable conclusion. If you don’t understand the problem, you won’t understand the solution and the rest won’t matter.
  2. Ask a TON of questions to clarify anything you might not understand or things you are curious about.
  3. When setting objectives, you want to consider what makes the most sense but also what is most scalable and feasible.
  • People matter the most. You have to be someone that people like, you want to have a ton of passion & be able to get people on board with your idea. We don’t think about this often because we’re so caught up in what we’re building but the hardest part of starting a company is getting people to agree on your vision. Do you think it was easy for Elon Musk to start Neuralink or SpaceX? Probably not. But to a certain degree, people believed that he could do it, he had the knowledge and persona to convince people.
  • Think long-term. What you’re building might be viable now but it might not make sense 2–3 years down the line. People, our world and tech are constantly changing. Being able to predict the future is key.
  • Explore different applications of your product. People get tunnel-visioned very easily. We get an idea and we just know that it’s awesome but the reality is that your first few ideas always suck. Imagine how much more solid that idea could be after 5–6 iterations.
  • Create the future that you want. This is something that I’ve been thinking a lot about. Asking myself: What kind of future do I want to live in? Then, spending time getting the network, knowledge and skills to build it. These things don’t just happen, people spend time thinking about it and then actionably working towards goals they create.

Top 3 Observations:

  • Practicing the process of identifying problems is key. Most people aren’t trained to thoughtfully research an industry, make data-driven decisions for big economically incentivized problems. A lot of startups fail because what they were working on wasn’t really needed or a huge problem. They just go really excited about something and built it! You want to build things that people want, and things that matter.
  • People will often skip over the basic questions. We can easily get caught up in granular details that we forget to ask the fundamental questions that might completely change our solution. The best way to do this is by getting a third eye and spending time getting things validated by smart people.
  • Tell a story and the WHY. These things are most appealing to VC’s. Can you connect with them on an emotional level? Can you make them care for your work? A lot of this comes from telling a story and demonstrating why you’re so passionate about something. Storytelling = a super important skill.

Thanks so much to Valerie for providing me with this great opportunity. I can’t wait to keep growing, learning and building with my CDL community!!

If you have any thoughts, questions on this or want to learn more, feel free to reach out. ✌

Email: alishbai734@gmail.com.

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Alishba Imran

Machine learning and hardware developer working on accelerating problems in robotics and renewable energy!