Incubators, Accelerators or Weekend training programs – what’s the difference?

Published in Nov 5, 2019

There is a point in the process of scaling up where startups should begin to choose wisely. When seeking help to get their business off the ground, startups have a number of options when it comes to funding and support. Whether they have in mind finding the proper funding opportunities or meet full of knowledge mentors, accelerators, incubators or even weekend bootcamps can come easily in hand.

According to Forbes, there are 5 reasons why a startup should join an accelerator:

  1. Provides an ecosystem of support
  2. Develops skills for the founding team
  3. Helps build the first iteration of a startup
  4. De-risks future investors
  5. Funding

On the other side, if we are talking about very early stage startups there are even stronger reasons to join an incubator: 

  1. Reliable Financial Support
  2. Exposure to Industry Leaders & Mentorship
  3. Shared Administrative Services
  4. Access to Pitch and Demo Events
  5. Low Cost Access to Expensive & Sophisticated Equipment
  6. Low Cost Space & Flexibility

Another way to learn in an accelerated pace are weekend bootcamps.

What are those? 

A bootcamp is an opportunity to learn in an accelerated rhythm what it takes to build a startup. Usually it’s a 2-3 days event, where you’ll meet with mentors and coaches for an intensive training program. 

Let’s find out what exactly accelerators & incubators are and which are the best for startups at every stage.

Why to choose an accelerator?

The role of an accelerator is to “accelerate” the growth of an existing company and focus on scaling the business. Startup accelerators are generally fixed-term, group programmes that include mentorship and training and some of them may end in a public pitch event or demo day.

In what regards the way it works, accelerators have structured programs from a few weeks to a few months in which startups work with a group of mentors to build out their business, face the problems that appear along the way and learn to find a solution to them. Among the ones who are part of the mentors, there are startup executives, venture capitalists, industry experts, and other outside investors. 

Usually, accelerators start with an application process and are very selective. According to TechRepublic, accelerators like Y Combinator accepts about 2% of the applications it receives and Techstars usually has to fill its 10 spots from around 1,000 applications.

There is to mention that when it comes to accelerators, early stage companies are typically given a small seed investment, and access to a large mentorship network and all these  in exchange for a small amount of equity.

When to get into an incubator?

As written on, incubators are „a potential buffet of capital choices”. And this is because the main purpose of an incubator is to help startups at a very early stage to grow. Incubators are collaborative programmes which help people solve problems associated with launching a startup by providing a space to work, seed funding, mentoring, training and other benefits.

Some incubators have an application process and some incubators only work with companies and ideas that they come in contact with through trusted partners. They begin with companies (or even single entrepreneurs) that may be earlier in the process and they do not operate on a set schedule. A typical incubator has shared space in a co-working environment, a month-to-month lease program, additional mentoring, and some connection to the local community. 

Despite the fact that both incubators and accelerators offer a great opportunity to help young companies and ideas for startups to get headed in the right direction, there is one main difference between them: while accelerators are generally considered to be tailored to later stage startups, incubators are more suited to very early stage business ideas.

So bear this in mind before making a decision.