What is a Startup Accelerator, Business Incubator…?

With the assortment of possible startup events and programs available – from Launch Weekend to Startup Accelerator to Business Incubator – it’s difficult to know exactly what each entails and whether they’re applicable to you. As a start, here are some handy startup program definitions so you can better understand the broad nature of each category, and assess whether they meet your specific criteria and needs:

Workspace
Office locations providing desk space and facilities at a reduced or low rate to startups and growth businesses. Generally they will provide the essential business amenities, with conditions varying from the very basic to somewhat lavish. Workspaces can exist as a standalone location, or as part of a wider network offering an ‘airport lounge’ pop-in and out model. Desks are charged at a monthly fee or discounted for up-front payment.

Startup Weekend
Events run over 48 to 72 hours intended to form new startup teams who coalesce around a business idea in an intensive, time-stressed environment. Depending on the structure of the event, participants can either be individuals with no prior connections, or existing teams joining to fast track their ideas. Again, events vary whether they accept or encourage people to come with existing ideas, or if teams are expected to conceive ideas on the day. Usually there is a small fee to take part, with no obligation to continue with a team or idea after the weekend.

Pre-Accelerator
Participatory courses, usually lasting 7 to 8 weeks, designed to take a team from formation and idea discovery through to the point where they’re ready to enter a full-time seed Accelerator program. Pre-Accelerators operate by providing a series workshops and coaching sessions on a weekly basis (often in evenings) covering the key aspects of business creation. Teams work independently outside of these sessions, but are expected to report back on learnings and progress each week. Often Pre-Accelerators are run by corporations or government bodies, although some are affiliated to specific Accelerator programs and investors. Depending on the backing, some programs will charge a one-off set fee in order to participate.

(Seed) Startup Accelerator
For profit programs that accept open-applications to join classes (known as ‘cohorts’) of startups consisting of small founding teams with externally developed ideas. They provide support through small amounts of seed capital, mentoring, training and events for a finite period – usually 3 to 4 months – in exchange for single-digit chunks of equity. The startups ‘graduate’ at the end of the program at which point they are geared to gaining full-blown investment, with each program culminating in a focal ‘demo day’ for investors.

Business Incubator
Programs that support the successful development of entrepreneurial businesses through the provision of resources and services developed, delivered and orchestrated by a team of professional managers and staff, and offered both in the Incubator and through it’s network of contacts. Incubators can take one of two key forms: either where the idea is developed internally by the Incubator and then an external team is brought in to launch and manage it; or as an uber-workspace set-up, offering external teams with their own ideas enhanced support, training and mentoring. In the former case, the business model is where the Incubator takes a significant equity share for it’s services; whilst in the latter case, generally they charge a monthly fee to participate and utilize the Incubator’s resources over an extended period of time.

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