Boom in startups and venture capital in recent years has coincided with the emergence of new players in
startup ecosystems, supporting early-stage startups, such as incubators, accelerators, angel investors,
and early-stage venture capitalists. Startup founders looking to start off on the right foot often turn to a
startup accelerator or startup incubator for help.
The terms “Accelerator” and “Incubator” are often assumed to represent the same concept. However,
there are a few key distinctions that first-time founders should be aware of if they are planning on signing
Accelerators and incubators both offer entrepreneurs good opportunities early on. Founders get help to
quickly grow their business and they often better their chances of attracting a top venture capital (VC)
firm to invest in their startup at a later point. Still, the programs are different frameworks for startup
Startup accelerators tend to focus on providing startups with mentorship, advice, and resources to help
the startups succeed, including a Demo Day, a day to focus the attention of the startup investor
community on the startups through hosting a series of investments pitches from the startups to startup
while incubators “incubate” disruptive ideas with the hope of building out a business model and
company. So, accelerators focus on scaling a business while incubators are often more focused on
innovation. Startup incubators begin with companies (or even single entrepreneurs) that may be earlier in
the process and they do not operate on a set schedule. Within the incubator, a company will refine its
idea, build out its business plan, work on product-market fit, identify intellectual property issues, and
network in the startup ecosystem.
Accelerators tend to not offer dedicated office space to startups, but may have a physical location for
shared resources and accelerator events such as invited guest speaker talks and advising office hours.
Incubators tend to offer dedicated office and development space to the startups for a set period of time.
Startup accelerators and incubators can get involved at all stages of a startup’s development, from idea
stage to revenue-generating, late stage. However, most tend to focus on relatively early stage startups,
as this is when companies can typically most benefit from outside help.
Startups are usually admitted in batches, with many incubators and accelerators. Some focus on a
specific industry, market, technology, stage, or other thesis, whereas others are more generalists. Most
seek to run an application and screening process.
Choosing whether to pursue the mentorship of an accelerator or incubator is a tough decision. First, you
need to decide whether you need the guidance, capital, and other assistance they have to offer. With so
many different accelerators and incubators out there, you have many options to find the one that best fits
your company. Even so, an accelerator or incubator may not be right for your startup. For instance, if
you’re only looking for capital, you may be better off reaching out to an expert to help you raise instead.
Or if you have enough capital but need mentorship, you might want to utilize your network to acquire the
mentorship of a veteran.
After choosing to pursue one of these mentorship programs, you need to decide whether you’ll benefit
more from the quick growth offered by an accelerator or the unstructured progress of an incubator. In the
end, only you and your team know what’s best for the future of your startup.
Accelerators and incubators have been very successful in helping startups attain success, being
admitted to a startup accelerator or incubator is not a guarantee for success to a startup founder, and not
a guarantee of a sound investment for a startup investment. Both incubators and accelerators offer a
great opportunity to help young companies and ideas for startups get headed in the right direction, but
it’s up to you where you need to start.
There are many Accelerators and incubators run and supported by the DST (Department of Science and
Technology) at Institutes and then there are non-institute ones. We list some of them here:
The Seedfund incubator
Indian Angels Network
Technopark TBI, Trivandrum
500 Startups, Mountain View, California
NSRCEL, IIM Bangalore
CIIE, IIM Ahmedabad
SINE, IIT Bombay
Technology Business Incubator (TBI), IIT BHU, Varanasi
Rural Technology Business Incubator (RTBI), IIT Madras
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