How founders can find the right start-up programme: Incubator vs Accelerator
Incubators and accelerators are the two different types of support programmes designed to offer different types of support to business at different stages of their growth. Take a look through the lists below to work out where your business best fits.

So, you’ve decided that the time has come in your startup for you to seek advice and mentorship from a support programme.

It’s widely acknowledged that joining a support programme can work wonders for the growth of your business, and puts you in the position to catapult the growth of your business! 

But here’s the next challenge: finding the support programme that’s right for your goals. With the number of accelerators and incubators having doubled over the last 5 years, it can be difficult to find the right fit. In this blog we’ve outlined the key details you need to bear in mind when selecting the right support programme for your business. 

Incubators vs Accelerators: What to Bear in Mind 

Incubators and accelerators are the two different types of support programmes designed to offer different types of support to business at different stages of their growth. Take a look through the lists below to work out where your business best fits. 

Incubators work best for businesses who want to…

  • Refine their business idea 
  • Build their company from the ground up 
  • Establish a validated idea
  • Formulate a business plan
  • Get ad-hoc advice on their business 
  • Solve technical and design issues around building their product

Accelerators are the better option if you…

  • Already have a validated minimum viable product (MVP)
  • Are looking for the resources you need to grow quickly 
  • Are looking to network or seek partnerships with other organisations 
  • Want the close attention of a mentor or business adviser 

To summarise, if you’re not sure that you’re quite ready for an accelerator, or need help moving past the initial idea stage of your business growth, then an incubator might be the better choice of fit for you. 

So now you’ve got an idea of what kind of support programme you’re looking for, what are the other factors you need to consider before selecting the perfect accelerator or incubator? 

Location, Location, Location! 

When you’re picking a support programme, location is one of the key things you’ll need to bear in mind. If you’re going to invest the time into growing your network and business presence in a specific area, then ensure the location and the events have the most relevance for you. . Even though we now live in a more virtually connected world, ultimately having the people you’ll be interacting with in your local area will be beneficial to your business growth. If your programme has a virtual delivery, you might not need to worry as much about the physical location of your programme, but it’s worth considering that a virtual programme can’t necessarily offer the same benefits gained from an in person programme such as networking as much stronger connections are always made face to face along with those serendipitous chance meetings that occur.

Programme intensity 

The intensity of the programme you’re looking at is another thing to consider.  You need to be realistic with  how much time you’ll be able to dedicate to making the most of your support programme and any work generated from it. If you’re at a stage of your startup journey where you can afford the time to be focused on the programme or even delegate responsibilities to another team member and really throw yourself into the learning opportunities of your programme, then you can really make the most of an accelerator and all of the benefits. If, however, you aren’t sure, just be mindful that you only get out what you put in, so don’t go into it half hearted. 

Do Your Background Research

Spend the time doing some background research into the programme you’re considering. Whilst any good accelerator or incubator will have heaps of marketing materials convincing you of the benefits of joining, it’s testimonials from a range of people who have been on the programme that are the most telling.. Look at the track record of the programme you’re thinking of joining. Speak to entrepreneurs who have spent time there, or graduated from the programme. What do they have to say about their experience? Take a look at the people behind the programme: what’s their incentive for creating this? Once you’ve got a feel for the backstory of your support programme, you’ll be in a better position to understand if it’s the right fit for your business. 

Know what you want, but be open to new ideas

Being inflexible about what you want from a support programme can limit you from the vast range of support mechanisms you’re not even aware of yet. Research suggests from the Centre for Entrepreneurs (CFE) - the UKs leading entrepreneurship charity that support programmes with a tailored, customisable curriculum are less effective than a pre-prescribed set of modules, showing how some entrepreneurs can limit their growth with their own expectations. 

The same can be said for the mindset that’s needed to be mentored effectively. While your support programme mentors aren’t there to rip your business from its foundations and find fault with all the work you’ve done so far, they might point out the oversights that have been preventing your business from growing. While this is a difficult process, it’s ultimately the best thing for your business to have an open mindset and listen to all of their alternative perspectives as their goals are only to see you succeed, even though their advice may be hard to take at times when you are so close to your idea or business 

These programmes exist purely to provide you with support to grow your business. Therefore it's vital that you know what kind of support you’re looking for. That’s not to say that you should have a fixed idea about what you’re expecting. While it can be beneficial to leave your support programme with a list of tangible steps to action across your business, ultimately what you’re there for is a learning experience. That’s why it’s beneficial to enter into your support programme experience with an open mind, ready to see the value of the different services and networks available to you that you might have previously overlooked. 

Only want fundraising help from your support programme? Take a look at FundingHero

One of the biggest things that entrepreneurs are set on entering support programmes to gain is a wider financial understanding. Whilst accelerators and incubators can be an effective environment to gain these skills, there are other support providers who can meet this need before you’ve even enrolled on the support programme. If you’re looking for financial support specifically before getting involved in an accelerator or incubator, take a look at the materials and resources available on FundingHero. The diverse library of resources provides you with the templates, guides and learning materials that will equip you with the skills you need to take your business to the next level, save significant time - with learning materials that can be completed in hours not months and will put you in a better position before you consider joining a programme