The following article was sponsored by FDT Incubator

If you pay any mind to Silicon Valley activity, you would’ve likely heard the buzzword “Incubator” by now. Perhaps you think incubators are confined to software development, but they’re much more than that: incubators are the next generation of talent development and are set to revolutionize the 21st century’s economy.

Let’s backtrack a second to provide definition for those not in the know. Incubators are, more or less, enterprises that help startup companies develop by providing services like management training or office space.

Consider the world’s most famous incubator, Y Combinator. YC accepts pitches from startup companies with stellar ideas, injects them with $120,000 of capital, then works intensively with them over the course of three months to get their startup ready to pitch to investors. Of course some of these startups fail. Others, like Airbnb and Reddit, shoot to the stratosphere, and YC cashes out earning much more than their initial investment.

The model was made famous with software startups, but incubators can now be found in any industry, from hardware development to experimental restaurant design to finance. Incubators exist in different industries for different reasons. Ultimately they are the most efficient and fair ways of finding and nurturing new talent. Now why is that?

1. Incubators are data-driven

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At the core of any incubator is data. What works, what doesn’t. If you’ve taken a Gender Studies class, you’ll remember lectures about how you should consider a variety of qualitative factors – not just data. But in reality, it’s cold hard quantitative data that drives sales and growth.

Or consider this: a financial incubator that actively recruits people with no professional experience or finance, or perhaps no formal education in the finance sector. Through an app that allows users to competitively trade different financial markets against their friends and other players around the world, this incubator gathers data on its users, which allows them to weed out those with potential vs. those too risk-prone.

2. Incubators are about skill development

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Incubators are meant to be a learning experience. They are designed to provide you with an environment where your skillset can be nurtured under the guidance of peers and experts.

This skill development can take a variety of forms. One popular method is mentorship from industry experts. These are experts late in their careers that want to see the next generation thrive and prosper. For example, Stanford’s StartX incubator has executives from many of the world’s great software companies as mentors. These industry experts have already seen it all, with no problem being new to them, and they are there to help you.

3. Incubators are about meritocracy

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It should be refreshing for ROK readers to hear that Incubators are absolutely NOT about affirmative action or representing the “underrepresented.” They’re about showing that you can improve your skills and develop a plan to take your passion or profession to the next level.

Your endgame in an incubator will be unique. How you define success is up to you. It might be that your startup’s app gets a next round of funding, because of its quality and market potential, or that you’re invited to an interview at a big financial firm because you have proven that you have the ability to succeed through your track record of increasing profitability when trading.

A special kind of incubator

One example of an incubator that scouts out budding financial talent and gives them a leg up is FDT Incubator. Through its ForexMaster app, FDT Incubator allows users to develop their trading skills and financial literacy by competitively trading against their friends — or strangers — from around the world. For users it’s entirely cost/risk-free.

Anyone that proves themselves to be a consistently profitable virtual trader has the chance to participate in FDT’s free Incubator program, where they will have the opportunity to receive seed capital to manage a real, funded trading account. As users progress through the Incubator they will have more and more responsibility as a trader—and take home a bigger and bigger cut of their earnings. The best part is, many of the top traders on ForexMaster don’t have traditional finance backgrounds — they got to where they are based on practice and skill alone.

To inform their talent discovery model, FDT Incubator holds monthly contests for students to prove their skills and win some cold, hard cash. Currently, FDT Is hosting a free-to-enter Trade-A-Thon where $25,000 worth of prizes (including the newest iPhone 6s Plus and iPad mini 4) are on the table.

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There are many other examples of Incubators. FDT Incubator isn’t the only one. But it’s a model that’s beginning to prove itself, allowing talent a way to reach the top – without hiring quotas to get in their way.

Learn more about FDT Trade-A-Thon 2015 here.

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