Accelerators vs. Incubators and How to choose the Right One: An Entrepreneurs Guide
With the popularization of Lean Startup strategies, it has become common for entrepreneurs to learn agile methodologies and begin searching for an appropriate startup program to help get their company off the ground. Despite their differences, accelerators and incubators have similar purposes — assisting companies to develop. Coaching and mentorship are therefore essential to both.
If you’re a startup, it’s essential to know the difference between accelerator and incubator programs. With so many startup programs available to entrepreneurs, choosing the right one for your business can be challenging. This guide will discuss the critical differences between accelerator vs. incubator programs and how to choose the best one for you and your company.
What is an accelerator program?
A startup accelerator is a program that helps early-stage companies grow quickly by providing mentorship, resources, and sometimes funding. An accelerator is typically a short-term commitment, lasting from a few weeks to a few months. Startups in an accelerator program generally are given a small amount of seed money and access to mentors and resources. They are then left to their own devices to grow their business.
In an interview with CNBC, entrepreneur and TechStars co-founder Brad Feld likened the accelerator experience to immersive education: a period of intense, focused attention allows companies to learn at a rapid pace. Therefore, the accelerator business model generally offers entrepreneurs the opportunity to compress years of learning into a few months.
The M Accelerator program is an excellent choice for startups looking to take their company to the next level. The program is designed to help startups rapidly prototype and launch new products and features. Located in Los Angeles, the program offers access to many resources, including a network of experienced mentors, investors, and corporate partners.
In addition, the program provides a collaborative workspace, which helps to encourage creativity and collaboration.
The M-Accelerator program has a proven track record of success, and many existing companies have gone through the program achieving significant growth. If you are looking for a way to accelerate the development of your startup, the M-Accelerator program is an excellent option to consider.
What is an incubator program?
Business incubators and startup accelerators are programs designed to support early-stage businesses, but they differ in focus and approach. Incubators typically provide a wide range of services and resources, from office space and mentorship to access to funding. Their goal is to help businesses incubate and grow until they are ready to “graduate.”
In contrast, startup accelerators are much more focused on rapid growth, typically providing intensive training and mentorship over a short period (usually 3-6 months). The goal of an accelerator is to help a business “accelerate” its growth by giving it the tools it needs to scale quickly.
As a result, incubators and accelerators serve different purposes and appeal to different types of businesses. Both incubator and accelerator programs can be an excellent resource for startups, but it’s essential to choose the right one for your business.
The incubation idea dates back to 1959, when Joseph L. Mancuso opened the Batavia Industrial Center in New York. Incubation has grown in popularity and frequency over time, with European and American cities especially embracing it. Innovation centers, pépinières d’entreprises, science parks, and technopoles are just a few locations that have sprouted up across Europe and the United States since then.
Incubators and accelerators are not the same: they follow distinct phases of development, have varying business models, require different entry criteria, and provide various services. While incubators are based on rental payments for facilities and services, accelerators are generally funded by external investors who receive equity (usually 7%).
What are the benefits of joining an accelerator or incubator program?
While accelerator and incubator programs are becoming increasingly popular among startups, these programs offer companies a range of benefits, including access to funding, mentorship, and education.
As explained above, accelerator programs typically last for a few months, during which startups receive intensive support from staff and mentors. This can be invaluable for early-stage businesses that are still finding their footing. Accelerator programs often end with a “Demo Day,” during which startups pitch their business to a room full of potential investors.
They also have access to personalized coaching from serial entrepreneurs and investors. Accelerators work with angels, venture capital firms, and experienced founders, and they may end up investing in accelerated startups after the program.
According to recent data, 38% of accelerated startups raise Series A, making accelerated startups twice as likely to raise a seed round than those who didn’t participate in a startup program.
If your company is not ready to join an accelerator program, an incubator might be the answer. Incubators help startups solve technical and design issues when building the product, learn to run lean, and create a successful team.
On the other hand, startup incubators are like accelerator programs, but they typically provide longer-term support. Many incubators also offer shared office space, which can be a great way to network and collaborate with others.
Joining an accelerator or incubator program can benefit your company in several ways. Participating in a startup program can give your company added credibility with investors and customers. Being associated with a reputable program can help you attract top talent, and the education and mentorship you receive can help your business grow.
How do you decide which accelerator or incubator program is right for your startup?
When choosing an accelerator or incubator program for your startup, it’s essential to consider what you’re looking for in a program.
Here are a few things to consider:
- What are your needs and goals?
- What type of support do you need? Mentorship, funding, office space?
- What’s the duration of the program?
- How reputable is the accelerator or incubator program?
- Do they have a good track record of success?
- Do they have any partnerships with other organizations that could benefit your startup?
Once you’ve identified your needs, you can research programs that offer those resources. It’s also important to consider the size and stage of your company. Some programs are geared toward early-stage startups, while others are more suited for established businesses.
Finally, read reviews and talk to other founders who have participated in the program you’re considering. By doing your research, you can ensure that you choose an accelerator or incubator that’s a good fit for your startup.
What is the application and acceptance process like?
The application and acceptance process for getting into an incubator or startup program can vary depending on the specific requirements. However, here are some of the steps typically involved.
The first step is to apply, which usually includes basic information about your business idea and your team. Once the application has been reviewed, you may be invited to participate in an interview process.
The assessment also requires good teams from the pre-screening phase to move on to be evaluated for investability, revenue potential, and overall product/service quality.
Following that, you will have the interview. This is an opportunity for you to explain your business concept further and demonstrate your commitment to making it successful. If you are successful in the interview process, you will be asked to provide additional information and documents, such as a business plan.
After the interview, there is an evaluation. Once all required materials have been submitted, the program will make the acceptance decision. While the application and acceptance process can be rigorous, it’s important to remember that the accelerator or incubator is investing in you and your company.
Tips for the incubator application process
Step 1: Do your research
The first step in applying to an accelerator or incubator program is doing your research. As we mentioned before, it’s essential to choose a program that’s a good fit for your company. Consider what you’re looking for in a program and read reviews from other founders who have participated in the accelerator or incubator you’re considering.
Step 2: Start early
The application process for accelerator and incubator programs can be time-consuming, so starting sooner is essential. Give yourself plenty of time to gather the required materials and fill out the application. Proper preparation will help increase your chances of being accepted into a competitive program.
Step 3: Be clear and concise
When filling out your application, be clear and concise in your responses. Accelerator or incubator is looking for a well-thought-out business concept. Take the time to clearly explain your idea and what sets it apart from other businesses in your industry. Time is valued at an all-time high for startup accelerator programs, so consider your minimum viable product and precisely what it will take to get there.
Step 4: Be prepared for the interview process
If you’re invited to participate in an interview, be prepared to pitch and answer any questions about your business concept and your team. Accelerators and Incubators will want to know you and your company, be ready to sell them your idea, and field any difficult questions.
Step 5: Perform the interview
The interview is your opportunity to explain your business concept further and demonstrate your commitment to making it successful. These programs will be looking to see if you have what it takes to succeed in their program, so preparation, in this case, is vital.
Step 6: Follow up with necessary connections
After the interview, follow up with the accelerator or incubator and thank them for their time. This is also an excellent opportunity to ask any questions about the program. Showing consistent interest in the program will only improve your acceptance chances. After all, both programs are geared heavily toward finding accessible networking opportunities for your early-stage startup. Use your connections!
Step 7: Submit all required materials
Once you’ve completed the interview process, it’s time to submit all the required materials, such as a business plan. The accelerator or incubator will use these materials to decide whether to accept you into the program.
Step 8: Be patient
The accelerator or incubator application process can be lengthy depending on the program, so it’s helpful to be patient. It may take weeks or even months to hear back from a program, but if you’re persistent and put your best foot forward, you can be accepted into a top accelerator or incubator program.
The accelerator or incubator application process can be time-consuming, but it’s worth it if you’re accepted into a program that’s a good fit for your company. You’ll increase your chances of being accepted into a top accelerator or incubator program by following these steps.
What to consider when joining a startup program
When starting a business, entrepreneurs can take several different paths. For many, whether to join an accelerator or incubator program is an important one. There are many factors to consider when making this decision.
If you’re a startup founder considering whether to join an incubator or accelerator program, consider the startup ecosystem in which your company will operate. Is it a highly competitive market where it’s challenging to stand out? Or is it a more supportive environment where startup programs can give you a boost?
Second, think about your team’s stage of development. Are you just starting out and still figuring out your business model? Or do you have a well-formed product and team in place?
Finally, consider your goals for the program. Are you hoping to gain access to resources and mentorship? Or are you simply looking for funding and development assistance? By taking all these factors into account, you’ll be able to choose the accelerator or incubator program that’s right for your business.
Whether to join an incubator or an accelerator is critical for early-stage companies. While joining a startup accelerator or incubator can boost your business in a highly competitive market, each type of program offers different benefits, and the right choice will depend on the company’s individual needs. Ultimately, the decision of which type of program to join should be based on a careful assessment of the company’s goals and needs. Startups can truly set themselves up for success by choosing the right program.
If you would like to read more on the topic here is an article from our director on Forbes: