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Incubator & Accelerator Explained

As the competition in the startup world intensifies, founders are constantly looking for an edge that they can use to gain. This is often done through the relationships that they can build with investors and mentors in an incubator or accelerator. Are these types of organizations right for you?


It’s common to see the terms “accelerator” and “incubator” interchangeably used, but there are actually differences between these two terms. Before you apply to one, it’s important to understand the difference between these two terms.

An incubator normally supports new ventures during the ideas stage. Incubators provide access to infrastructure and an environment that’s conducive to idea developing and building your Minimum Viable Product (MVP). They can be a good source of advice for very early-stage startups.

An accelerator is a type of program that helps companies accelerate their growth. It typically provides a team of experienced investors and entrepreneurs to help them get started.

When you sign up for an incubator, you typically have to physically locate your company inside one of the multiple shared offices of other startups. In some cases, you can stay in the facility for up to several years. If you’re thinking about joining an incubator, talk to the founders who are currently in it. They will tell you about their history and how they’ve been able to achieve their goals. Also, look at their alumni to see how many have gone on to become successful business leaders. This will give you an idea of the program’s quality.

Accelerator programs usually have a set timeframe that lasts anywhere between a few weeks and a few months, and gives companies access to their network, knowledge and (a relatively small amount of) funding. If you’re thinking of joining an accelerator, do your research. Get stats about their alumni: how many have been acquired/sold/IPO? How many failed? Who’s in their network of mentors, and do any of these mentors specialised in your type of business? Finding a good-fit accelerator with a strong track record will be significantly more valuable to your startup than one that’s local, with no (or very few) notable alumni.

Pros & Cons

  • Through mentorship and learning programs, the hosting organizations can help some of the world’s most talented entrepreneurs. Through these programs, you can access capital from investors. You can also introduce yourself to potential investors through a network of contacts. Being part of an accelerator or incubator can help you build credibility. It will also help you get your name out there.
  • However, Most startups that are over-subscribed make it into incubators or accelerators. Program hosts typically accepts around 2-5% of the applications. There are a variety of accelerators and incubators out there, and not every one is the best. The networks and advisors that these organizations have access to can be very valuable, but not every program is the best. The quality of your experience depends on the program’s specializations and how well your company fits in.

When it comes to choosing an accelerator or incubator for your startup, depending on its stage, it’s important to consider the type of startup and the team it needs. For instance, pre-traction startups are best suited to an incubator, while post-traction startups require a team to put in the necessary leg-work.

Before applying to an incubator or accelerator program, consider two questions:

  • Can I afford it?

You don’t get anything for free when it comes to getting into an accelerator program or incubator. To secure a spot in either program, you have to give up a portion of your equity in your startup & invest a long period of time for the program.

  • Do I need it?

Before you start looking for an accelerator or incubator program, it’s important that you thoroughly research the various programs that are available. Doing so will allow you to find the one that fits your needs and provides the best possible return on your investment. The ideal incubator or accelerator program should be able to provide you with the necessary tools and resources to achieve your goals. In addition to being able to provide you with the necessary skills and resources, they should also be able to help you grow. If you’re not able to achieve your goals through the help of an accelerator or incubator program, then consider seeking advice from other sources. This could include a mentor or consultant.