As an entrepreneur, you’ve probably heard of the terms startup incubator and startup accelerator, but do you really know the difference between the two? Because while it is true that they are very similar and offer some of the same benefits, there are definitely some key differences between the two.

Before determining which one may be appropriate for you, depending upon what stage you are in at this moment, it would be wise to gain a better understanding of what each has to offer first.

An incubator’s focus is to help brand new companies that still need to develop a product. Incubators provide early-stage startups with valuable resources such as free office space, mentorship, collaboration, and networking opportunities. Typically, incubator programs are sponsored by educational organizations like universities or other nonprofit organizations.

Accelerators’ primary focus is to expedite the growth of an existing company. Through an accelerator program, businesses that already have a solid foundation receive seed investments, guidance, and other resources. Hence, they can scale up in a short period of time. More often than not, a startup accelerator receives funding from private organizations. Still, it can get funded through public organizations as well.

Now what are some of the differences between the two? There are three key differences which include:

  1. What stage of the venture are you at? Business incubators are for those in the product development phase and need a developed business model. Accelerators are the opposite of that. These are for those that already have a minimum viable product and would like to speed up the growth of their existing business.
  2. Who will receive seed funding? Typically you won’t receive funding for your venture through a startup incubator. At the same time, accelerators provide you with a seed investment.
  3. Your commitment to the program. Incubators offer a slower, steady timeline, commonly taking one to five years. An accelerator program provides a much more fast-paced route. It’s more intensive, with a time frame of only three to six months.

With both the incubator and accelerator programs, there is an application process and possible interview to follow up when deciding who will be accepted. It’s a highly competitive selection, and the space is limited compared to the number of people aspiring to start their own businesses.

Now having more of an idea of what both have to offer, determining which is a better match for you will be easier. 


Article by
Ava Collins
Content Writer and Researcher

Student award winner Ava Collins